Government defends decision to ban locals from some hotels

The Government has defended the decision to keep locals out of specific hotels when Sri Lanka reopens its borders for tourism from Thursday (21).

Over 50 hotels will be out of bounds for locals when Sri Lanka reopens its borders for tourists from 21 January.

The hotels are part of selected “Safe and Secure” certified Level 1 hotels where tourists visiting Sri Lanka from 21 January will need to stay at during the first 14 days of their visit.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told reporters today (19) that at least 53 hotels were chosen from 153 hotels that had qualified for the process.

Stating that there are nearly 3,300 hotels in Sri Lanka, Minister Ranatunga said a majority had refused to operate as Level 1 hotels for foreign tourists, as they wanted to accommodate locals for functions such as weddings.

Responding to questions raised on preventing local vendors from visiting hotels used to accommodate foreign tourists, the Minister said local vendors have been prohibited from entering the hotels or communicating with the tourists on the beach.

He further said discussions have been held with authorities in this regard, while a senior police officer has been appointed for this purpose.

Minister Ranatunga said the Police will be deployed to prevent interaction between locals and the visiting foreign tourists.

Commenting on the matter, Cabinet Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters that the Government will not exclude local vendors who have been severely affected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said in order to be able to interact with foreign tourists, the local vendors will have to agree to be subjected to the system introduced by the Tourism Ministry and health authorities.

Minister Rambukwella pointed out that they will have to adhere to the necessary regulations and be included in the system introduced specifically for this purpose. (Colombo Gazette)