Sri Lanka’s $4.4 billion tourism industry is reeling from cancellations as travelers shun the sun and sand Indian Ocean island after multiple suicide bombings that killed over 250 people two weeks ago.
Suspected suicide bombers from little-known terrorist groups in Sri Lanka attacked churches and luxury hotels in the country on Easter Sunday, killing worshippers, tourists and their families.
Tourism, which accounts for 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, has suffered as tourists from around the world canceled hotel and flight bookings fearing more attacks.
“It’s a big blow to the economy, as well as the tourism industry,” Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said in an interview on Saturday.
“For the economy to develop, it’s important tourism return to where it was before the attacks.”
Net hotel bookings dropped a staggering 186 percent on average over the week following the attacks compared to the same period last year, data from travel consultancy ForwardKeys showed.
A decline of more than one hundred percent indicates more cancellations than bookings.
Cancellation rates at hotels across the country averaged 70 percent as of Saturday, with the capital Colombo taking a bigger hit, said Sri Lanka’s Tourism Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes.
“Some airlines have also discontinued frequency of flights. Load factor is much lower than it used to be,” Gomes said. “It is a worrying factor for sure.”