#Voices of Travel: Local travel will revive first, paving way for international travel says Lakshimaal Samarasinghe from Sri Lanka

In this ongoing series, we explore how humans of travel are mitigating the ongoing COVID19 outbreak. Lakshimaal Samarasinghe, Assistant Manager, Classic Destinations, Sri Lanka tells us his story. 

Classic Destinations operates inbound as well as outbound travel. Sri Lanka experienced a catastrophic event last year when a group of extremists bombed several locations killing more than 300 civilians including foreigners. This was a severe blow for a country who had just experienced 10 years of peace after the 30-years old civil conflict that ended in 2009. The tourism industry was greatly affected by many countries issuing travel warnings against travel to Sri Lanka and almost all pre-planned arrivals being cancelled. However, the country gradually recovered from this status and the tourism sector was virtually progressing to normality as before with high hopes for Summer 2020 (April – Sep).

We had many group arrivals planned for multiple countries such as China, Korea, Spain, etc. We also had a few of our partner agents who were planning to visit Sri Lanka on familiarising tours. On the outbound side, we had many planned and sold-out tours to destinations such as Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro, Kenya, India, etc.

Due to the global outbreak including Sri Lanka, we have completely lost all revenue. Some of our clients, both inbound and outbound have cancelled their plans and requested a full refund which we are facilitating with no questions asked. On the other hand, based on the client requests, some of our tours have been indefinitely postponed for now and a few even being postponed to next year.

As things get better, we believe that there will be a demand for domestic travel around the globe. We expect this trend to then expand into regional and then long-distance international travel. Hence our plans are to work in parallel with these demands and trends. In this scenario, we will have to look at other avenues such as virtual travelling, etc.

I think the call of the day is to be a realist rather than an optimist. While we are certain that this surely won’t last forever, we understand that this will not wear off anytime soon as well. My predictions are that it would take at least a year until the date we are able to say “we are back to normal”. While we never know about the date of when things will be over. This is surely not permanent. As when things are over, there will be a massive boom with everyone wanting to travel after staying indoors.

My advice is to take care of your employees, the people around you and of yourself. Plan for the future as the future will surely be positive.