THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tour operators in the state, who offer packaged tours to foreign destinations, fear the serial bomb blasts in Sri Lanka could trigger last-minute cancellations. Even though direct flights to Colombo are still operational, tour operators say the terror attacks on Easter Sunday may result in wide-spread cancellations. Last year, around 4.5 lakh tourists from India visited the island, of which 50,000 were from Kerala, making it one of the most visited foreign tourist destinations by travellers from the state. A number of international passengers in the city who were planning to go to Sri Lank have put their plans on hold, an aftermath of the attack.
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"The five-day package was supposed to begin on Tuesday but the clients have asked us to cancel the same. It had cost 42, 000 per head and the same has caused a huge loss to the agency. We spoke to the airlines and hotels regarding the negotiations. The clients are yet to take decisions regarding the change of destination or date of travel," said Gayatri Anil, manager at Skyways Holidays Pvt. Ltd at Pottakkuzhi.
According to tour operation head of Chittazha based Kattan Kappi Tours, Rohith Kuriakose, a total of five packages to Sri Lanka that included 25 people were cancelled due to the terror attacks. "The journey was scheduled in the month of June and July. The clients have asked for the cancellation of the tickets to Sri Lanka but has requested to change the tour destination to some other country," said Rohith.
The Destination Designers, city-based travel agency at Kunnumpuram lost nearly Rs 5 lakh with the cancellation of tickets to Sri Lanka. "A group of 35 clients were supposed to travel on Wednesday but the same has got cancelled," said Unni Nair, regional manager of Destination Designers.
Paulose Mathew, chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) - Kerala Chapter, said April is the peak season for tourist from Kerala to Sri Lanka. Flights to Colombo from CIAL and Thiruvananthapuram are normally fully booked. "The effect of the terror attack will be felt in the long run. Safety is one of the top priorities for tourists visiting foreign countries. If any travel advisory on visiting Sri Lanka is issued, the situation will worsen further," he said.
Boon for Kerala?
Tourism industry watchers say Sri Lank's loss could be Kerala's gain. They say Kerala might see a spike in foreign tourists footfall in the aftermath of the terror strike in Sri Lanka. Paulose said Sri Lanka Tourism recorded an exponential growth in the past two years. Tourists planning to travel to Kerala were wooed away by the attractive packages to Sri Lanka.
"After the civil war ended, the UN Council had brought out a resolution for the development of the island nation. As part of this, US, Canada and European nations promoted travellers to visit the country. However, following the serial terror attacks, tourists may prefer to travel to Kerala than Sri Lanka. Kerala has geographical and climatic similarities with Lanka. Also, the packages provided in Sri Lanka are similar to the one provided in Kerala," he said.But to promote tourism, the state will have to form an action plan to counter frequent hartals. The security of tourism, especially of women tourism, should be given utmost priority.