Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was flourishing this year. Not only was the island nation named as Lonely Planet’s best country in the world to visit in 2019, but Australian visitation there had already grown 19%.

That tourism boom came to a crashing halt when 250 people were killed and at least 500 were injured in a series of coordinated suicide bombings at churches and hotels across the island on Easter Sunday.

Now Sri Lanka has been hit by what flight-booking analyst ForwardKeys refers to as “a tidal wave of cancellations”.

Sri Lanka was named as the 'Best Country in the world' to travel to in 2019

Sri Lanka was named as the ‘Best Country in the world’ to travel to in 2019

ForwardKeys, which forecasts future travel patterns by analysing over 17 million flight booking transactions a day, revealed that in the three days immediately after the bombings, cancellations of existing bookings to Sri Lanka overall were at 86.2%.

Forward bookings for July and August, which had been running 2.6% ahead of last year before the attacks, fell to 0.3% behind as of 23 April.

Before the tragic attacks, flight bookings to Sri Lanka in 2019 (1 January to 20 April 2019) were 3.4% up on the same period in 2018.

ForwardKeys director of business development APAC Jameson Wong said it was too early to predict what the effect on tourism to Sri Lanka will be, as the initial wave of cancellations affects trips planned in the very near term.

“If we look back at past terrorist atrocities, it is interesting to note how different the impacts can be”.

ForwardKeys director of business development APAC Jameson Wong

“In the wake of the bloody siege at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, bookings suffered a similar collapse in the immediate aftermath; however, within less than two weeks, international arrivals returned to growth,” he said

“By comparison, it has taken more than three years to see a Tunisian tourism recovery following the massacre on the beach in Sousse in 2015.”

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Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is still advising travellers to reconsider their need to travel to Sri Lanka.

They suggest that “terrorists are likely to carry out further attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners”.

Have all your clients cancelled their trips to Sri Lanka?