Tourism recovery: Here are some dots, perhaps someone can connect them

I once read that “certainty is the best friend of a business” and “uncertainty is the greatest enemy of a business”. I believe we are now in the most uncertain times of our lifetime and needless to explain what comes with it. For the hotels, with the latest Minuwangoda factory based cluster things are dire beyond explanation.

I run a few small properties, just to put things into perspective, I use one phone number for all of them, and before the latest COVID-cluster I used to get about 10-15 inquiries a day. By no means was sales good before the present situation, in fact I even took the phone to the washroom as I was determined not to lose a single incoming call. And yes I closed a couple of sales inside the washroom! As for the latest, yesterday the phone rang for the first time after three days, which was to postpone an existing reservation in the coming week.

Many say tourism will not recover for the whole of 2021. I think otherwise. I believe that if we connect all the dots together learning from other countries, we can be hopeful that things will get back to some normalcy starting April 2021. I’m a heavy reader and below are some “dots” that I was able to “collect”. And hope that someone will be able to “connect” them together for our tourism recovery.


Among the top five COVID-19 vaccine candidates (Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinovac Biotech, CanSino Biologics, Sinopharm), except Oxford-AstraZeneca all others have claimed to be in the late stages of Phase III trials and they are expecting to release for regulatory approvals as early as within the next four weeks. So it is most likely the world will have at least two approved vaccines before the end of November. And possibly more by the end of December.

Therefore hopefully within the next eight to 12 weeks we will be living in a world where were know that we have a solution to COVID for a reasonably prolong period. (How long the world doesn’t know yet)

This changes people’s perception about the virus and getting about other things they wanted to do. Like travelling.

Important: Let me reiterate that above is not speculative. It’s very unlikely that all five leading candidates will say that they have failed in the last trials.

Rapid testing

There are number of low-cost rapid testing COVID-19 tests about to hit the market very soon. Pathag from EU and Feluda from India to name few (which are still in the pipeline). However the world has already started using rapid testing kits in many parts.

In NY, Governor Cuomo last week released a communique that 400,000 rapid testing kits be made available for free in each NY County. Italian Airports have already started using two-hour rapid testing at their borders.

Important (1): I wish to highlight that “low costs” testing have not yet hit the market. But they will be soon. That should not necessarily stop us from looking at other already available rapid tests.

Important (2): The present swab tests are known to be unreliable at times. And we come across this regularly on news. And it’s believed that rapid tests are more reliable that the present time-consuming expensive swab tests.

Quarantine rules 

Similar to Sri Lanka, another island, Iceland, had COVID-19 under control, however towards end September they were hit with a second wave. On CNN Iceland’s Lady Prime Minister spoke with Becky Anderson. The Prime Minister was asked if they plan to close borders. Her reply was blunt, she said since April they had a five-day quarantine rule in place that worked so they wished not to change it. Given below is the latest quarantine directive in Iceland.

“Passengers arriving in Iceland on and after 19 August may choose either to submit to two screening tests for COVID-19, separated by five days’ quarantine until the results of the second test are known, or else not to undergo border screening but instead to spend 14 days in quarantine after arrival.”

If that had worked for them, may be it can work for us. Similarly there may be many other countries we can learn from. Frankly no one will even travel if they have to quarantine for two weeks. This does not mean people will happily accept five-day quarantine. But five is much better that 14. That’s a start.

Lowest-hanging fruit 

Hopefully we will be able to successfully get the present COVID-19 cluster under control soon. Regardless of whether there is a vaccine, safe travelling or safe medicine available six months from now, the very first thing that a traveller will check on the internet about Sri Lanka will be ‘Sri Lanka corona virus statistics’ (or anything that goes in the same meaning).

Thanks to all those who lead from the front, I wish and pray that this result will be positive compared to the rest of the world. So would you rather travel to a country with 50,000/500,000+ reported COVID cases or a country with 5,000+ reported cases? This will be our lowest-hanging fruit. So we are already at a strategic advantage to recover.

The most important bubble

Despite the lack of coverage in Western media, China’s recovery from COVID is unparalleled. They even let the citizens enjoy October golden week without restrictions. Even though they too are not immune to occasional clusters, I guess not too many countries can test 11 million citizens in Wuhan in nine days and now nine million citizens in Qingdao in five days, which is unthinkable let alone doable.

If we could even think of a bubble, what other bubble is more important than China? When all the countries surrounding Sri Lanka receive the most number of tourists from China, it begs to ask ‘why not us?’ If it can be done, perhaps China is the only market that we ever need to keep tourism going. Given the present political atmosphere, what better way that people of China can help Sri Lanka and get the most memorable trip they had in return?

This was written hoping ‘what is about to come’ and that ‘we can plan ahead assuming positivity’. The way we see the COVID outbreak in eight weeks’ time will be very different to how we see it now. Now going back to ‘certainty’ which I mentioned at the top. If we could just make some decisions such as plan to open the airport, possible rules to follow, tests to do, when to do, where to do, which countries are on safe-list, etc., based on information similar to above, then some ‘certainty’ will prevail, which will be much more reassuring than the miserable state that we are in now.

The writer has been running 3 small hotels since 2010. He can be reached via email at

By Saranga Dananjaya :