As you all may have heard, 21st of April 2019 Easter Sunday was one of the worst days in history for Sri Lanka. As a nation we cry and mourn for our people and their loved ones. We have been at peace for ten years after the Civil War that took place in our country for 30 years. It is extremely sad to witness a situation as this. Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries but she keeps going through a lot of trauma and heartache – like a wounded beautiful female soldier.
A common definition of terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government for political, religious, or ideological goals. Sri Lanka is a country that has experienced some of the worst known acts of modern terrorism, such as suicide bombings, massacres of civilians and assassination of political and social leaders that posed a significant threat to the society, economy and development of the country.
A few months ago National Thowheed Jamath (ntj), an Islamist group from Sri Lanka, was known for little more than defacing statues of the Buddha. On April 21st nine of its members walked into churches and luxury hotels on the island and blew themselves up, killing more than 250 people. Islamic State (is) claimed responsibility for the deadliest set of terrorist attacks in Asia in modern times.
The hospitality industry, as a year, around industry is vulnerable to both internal and external emergencies. Therefore preventing a crisis is an important part of the hospitality industry, as it directly affects the organizations and its stability.
The pre-event stage is where the efforts to mitigate the effects of and to be prepared for the potential disaster, while in the emergency phase the disaster happens and actions will be taken to rescue and save people and property. The pre-event stage is adequate to prevent and mitigate damage and having a simple checklist could prevent loss and be prepared for emergencies.
Hotels could issue a pre event check-list with the following areas of attention
- Guests from countries that requires closer attention (Visitors from Turkey, Syria, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Maldives) Check Credentials/ Frequency No of visits to Sri Lanka (Examination of Passport) and get to know them when appropriate
- Quantity of Luggage carried in comparison to duration of stay (light/Heavy)
- Control after-Hours Access/ Visitors that meet the guests (meetings in lobbies etc) and monitor Closed-Circuit Television
- Dress /Appearance (Unattended Beard, Hijab, Abaya)
- Extra attention during presence of large groups of guests from West/Europe especially from Christian nations
- Observe unusual behaviour in use of mobile devices/ computers
- Extra vigilance towards small size IEDs
- Use of scanners
Sri Lanka Tourism wishes to assure tourists who are already in the country and unaffected by the terror attacks that the police, tourism police and security forces are jointly implementing a comprehensive security plan to ensure their safety across the island including all important tourism sites. Meanwhile a security briefing was held on 22nd April for hotel owners and operators on the new safety measures that are being rolled out and to seek their cooperation in strengthening security at hotels and resorts.
Sri Lanka Tourism would like to reassure the world that the country is open for business and all possible measures have been taken to ensure the safety and security of tourists. Our world famous tourism sites, hotels, resorts and other tourist attractions will remain open as usual. There are no road closures or restrictions on movement anywhere in the island.
Measures taken by Sri Lanka Tourism to respond to current crisis situation
Following the incident took place around 9.00 a.m. on 21st April 2019, we have convened a special meeting with relevant Stakeholders who were available at that time to discuss and strategize the steps to be taken.
- Visited the three hotels and met the senior management and extended our support in two areas;
1. Transfer the guests to alternate hotels
2. Transfer any foreigner receiving any treatment at the private hospital to government hospitals should there be a need.
- We have assigned officers to the three hotels to coordinate with them for any special needs.
- We have also assigned officers to the government and private hospitals to liaise with the deceased families and injured families for any needs and wants.
- We have agreed to bear the cost of these actions where necessary.
- We are coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Missions locally and globally on related activities.
- Conducted a security awareness program with the help of Sri Lanka Army on 22nd April at 11.00 am to brief the industry on measures taken to restore normalcy and what actions the hotels should be taking. A series of such session will be conducted at Regional level as well.
- We have deployed two teams at the departure and the arrival lounges to coordinate with Airport & Aviation to facilitate the activities to offer comfort to the tourists.
- A press release has been issued by Ministry of Tourism.
- There will be an airport shuttle bus operated by BIA to transfer arriving passengers from arrival lobby to Naikanda Vehicle Park. To facilitate this kindly provide the contact details of clients and pick up person to Sri Lanka tourism Information Counter at BIA on 0112252411.
- Any passengers who wish to extend their visas , have to request in writing to Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and a recommendation will be made to Ministry of Foreign affairs to be submitted to Department of Immigrations for extensions up to maximum of two weeks. (Request email can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org )
- The immediate family members of deceased or injured who are visiting to Sri Lanka will be provided local hospitality by Sri Lanka tourism Promotion Bureau with the recommendation of Sri Lanka missions overseas or by an overseas mission in Sri Lanka after evaluating its genuineness. This has already been communicated to missions through Ministry of Foreign affairs.
- A short term PR Campaign will be worked out to manage Communication in order to enlighten the stakeholders of the industry on the ongoing developments.
- A decision has been made to partner with an Expert Global PR agency to rebuild the image and to regain the lost momentum of the industry
Even though we may look like a wounded soldier now, we will heal and rise up. We, Sri Lankan’s have gone through a lot and we won’t fall. We will build ourselves up and will reach the highest. United we stand.