The island state of Sri Lanka is stepping out as one of the most progressive destinations in Asia when it comes to reopening to international travellers. The “new normal” translates into a new way to travel, with a non-restrictive quarantine for a week before being able to mingle with local communities.
While some tourism authorities around the world speak about “Travel Bubbles” as they work to reopen tourism to a limited number of countries, Sri Lanka talks about “Bio Bubbles”.
“We impose a quarantine, but it looks very much like a holiday for most travellers as there are very few restrictions linked to it. This is why we talk about a “Bio Bubble”, which allow travellers to enjoy all the facilities at their hotel location,” said Kimarli Fernando, Chairwoman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB).
For Ms Fernando, Sri Lanka is safe and exciting even during the pandemic: “We have been very successful in containing the pandemic and life is getting on in a new normalcy among locals. We are ready to welcome all travellers and show them our country and our sense of hospitality.”
Over the past months, Sri Lankan authorities have developed health protocols to make their destination safe for visitors. Some 230 hotels in the country were audited and certified as “Safe and Secure”. These “Level 1” hotels are then fully opened to international travellers who can enjoy all the facilities such as swimming pool, spa, gym or restaurants.
Excursions can also be organised to designated “Safe and Certified” activities. Tourism authorities list 20 to 30 attractions open to foreign travellers on the Sri Lanka website. These include, among others, tea plantation tours, animal observation safaris or temple visits.
Flexibility is the mantra of Sri Lanka quarantine. “Travellers can even choose two different Level 1 hotels if they desire to move from one place to another. We work in a completely flexible manner within this health protocol,” said Fernando.
“We can even accommodate special wishes if necessary such as visiting a museum or a special area. Travellers can be in contact with our teams on our dedicated website pages srilanka.travel/helloagain,” she says.
Sri Lanka invents “unrestrictive” quarantine
The only restriction imposed during the “unrestricted” quarantine is the ban on meeting any locals, apart from staff members working in hotels who are currently being vaccinated.
There are some minimal constraints for visitors. The quarantine is of seven days in a Level 1 hotel for people who are vaccinated, and of 14 days for non-vaccinated travellers. During the stay, tourists must undergo two PCR tests at a price of a little under €70, paid prior to travelling to Sri Lanka.
The first of the prepaid PCR tests is carried out upon arrival at the guest’s hotel, prior to check-in. The second is conducted five to seven days later, or if any symptoms should develop before. “We will do also an earlier test if people stay less than seven days”, adds Fernando.
They must also take compulsory Covid-19 insurance priced at US$12, giving them health care coverage up to US$50,000 during their stay. Once the quarantine is finished, people are free to travel around the country and mix with locals.
MICE are even possible under this health protocol. “We will for example host two UNESCO conferences in May and November. And if more people are vaccinated, Sri Lanka promises to look at further simplifying health protocols,” concludes Fernando.