China is not happy with some restrictions imposed by Sri Lanka, saying it will affect Chinese tourists arriving in the country.
The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan said that the number of Chinese tourists to Sri Lanka has reached nearly 300,000 annually and ranks the top among foreign tourists to Sri Lanka.
However, he says this number is only a peanut while comparing with the number of Chinese tourists attracted by Thailand, which is also a neighbour of China. In 2018, Chinese tourists to Thailand have exceeded 10 million.
“The reasons mainly include following aspects. Firstly is language barrier. Many Chinese tourists are not accustomed to English language, much less the Sinhalese or Tamil language. Chinese-speaking tour guides’ accompany and interpretation is a must for them. But there are very few Chinese-speaking local guides here, and Chinese guides are prohibited from entering Sri Lanka and accompanying with tourists. Besides, Chinese people always have “Chinese stomach” when travelling. They show strong preference to Chinese food. However, it is difficult for a Chinese chef to obtain a working visa to work in or set up a Chinese restaurant. Therefore, the number of Chinese restaurants in Sri Lanka is limited and sometimes cannot meet needs of Chinese tourists,” the Ambassador said.
In addition, he said that a large percentage of Chinese tourists are accustomed to Chinese tobacco and alcohol, which is a reality that the tourism industries in Sri Lanka has to consider seriously, although it is not healthy at all and should not be encouraged.
“The tourists cannot buy Chinese tobacco and alcohol during their stay, and even not allowed to bring a few Chinese cigarettes with them for their personal own use when entering this island. These restrictions make Chinese tourists unaccustomed, which don’t exist or at least have some level of exemption or tolerance in many other countries,” he said.
The Ambassador said that conveniences, experiences and happiness are precisely what Chinese tourists most care about, and is one of the key factors in their decision-making of travel destinations.
“At present, the Sino-Sri Lanka relations has stepped into a fast development period. The implementation of Belt and Road Initiative between the two countries is in full swing, the exchanges in various fields are increasingly frequent, and the prospect for Sino-Sri Lanka tourism cooperation is also promising,” he said.
The Ambassador said that he is fully confident that if Sri Lanka could continuously improve the tourism environment, focus on improving the comfort of foreign tourists as much as Thailand, adjust relevant regulations in accordance with Sri Lankan laws, ease the existing obstacles for foreign tourists effectively, more and more Chinese tourists will be attracted to Sri Lanka, which will stimulate tourism, consumption and stronger vitality to local economy growth.