Feb 09, Colombo: Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga says that Sri Lanka will become the safest country in the world free of COVID for tourists by May, as the government has decided to complete the vaccination for all Sri Lankans by May.
Speaking at the Consultative Committee Meeting of the Ministry of Tourism in Parliament Tuesday regarding the current situation and future plans after the country was opened to tourists, the Minister emphasized that the tourism industry is gradually recovering after the country opened to tourists on January 21.
The Minister pointed out that all necessary steps have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID from tourists to the society and from the society to the tourists. The Minister said the health authorities as well as the officials of the Tourism Development Authority are closely monitoring whether the tourists arrived in the country so far are following the health guidelines properly.
Speaking further Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said the authorities are distributing the COVID vaccine, which was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and provided by India free of charge to those in the health and security sectors.
“The government hopes to give this vaccine to other people in the country as well. The government hopes to complete the vaccination drive by May. If so, we will be able to resume normal activities in the country. This is a very special situation especially for the tourism industry. If the Covid vaccine is given to all in the country by May, our country will become one of the safest countries in the world for tourists.”
“At present we are working on the arrival of tourists from countries such as India, Germany and Italy. Tourist organizations are working for this. We have taken all necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID to the local community from the tourists as well as to the tourists from the community.”
According to the Minister, the health authorities as well as the Tourism Development Authority to track the whereabouts of tourists visiting the country and whether they are following the health guidelines at their destinations where they stay and the places they visit. A 24-hour operational monitoring unit has been set up at the Tourism Development Authority and it can be reached via 1912 hotline.
“The revival of the tourism industry which was completely destroyed due to COVID 19 will be of great help to the Sri Lankan economy. Our goal is to elevate the tourism industry to a higher level than it was. One solution to the severe economic crisis faced by the country due to COVID is to develop the tourism industry. We are not ready to endanger the people of the country. That is why we are very careful in this process,” he said.
The Members of Parliament who participated in the Consultative Committee meeting raised issues pertaining to their respective areas and the Minister said he will provide prompt solutions to those issues. He also instructed the officials to take necessary action to resolve those issues expeditiously.
Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism S. Hettiarachchi, Chairman of the Tourism Development Authority Kimarli Fernando, Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe and officials of the Ministry and the Tourism Development Authority participated in the discussion.