April 23, 2019 By King
NEW DELHI: A series of eight bomb blasts rippping through high-end hotels and churches in Sri Lanka have rattled tourists and visitors to the island nation. Tour operators and travel service providers like Thomas Cook and SOTC said their customers currently in Sri Lanka are safe and they are working on ensuring their safe passage to India.
“There is no information on the number of Indian tourists impacted so far,” said Subhash Goyal, a member of the National Tourism Advisory Council under the ministry of tourism.
Companies said that while there was no new information from carriers on the schedules of flight departures and arrivals till Sunday evening, for future departures, basis updates and requests from their booked customers, travel will be deferred or alternate destinations provided.
Worshippers were targeted at the Kochikade, St Sebastian and Batticaloa churches during mass, while the other locations were Hotel Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotel. Over 200 people are reported to be killed in the attacks including dozens of foreigners.
At approximately 09:05am local time, an explosion took place in Shangri-La’s Table One Restaurant in Colombo, one of several locations in Colombo which was affected by Sunday morning’s attacks.
“We are working closely with local authorities and emergency services to provide our fullest assistance and support to the affected staff and guests. A Shangri-La crisis management team has been activated to provide all necessary support. For guest-related enquiries, we have set up a helpline at +603 2025 4619 to assist our guests,” Shangri-La said in a statement.
Information was not available on the number of Indian guests staying at the hotel.
Air India said in view of the situation in Sri Lanka, it had waived off all charges for rescheduling/cancellation of bookings on its flights to and from Colombo for travel till April 24, 2019. “Passengers are requested to report well in advance to clear security at Bandaranaike International Airport,” Air India said.
Mahesh Iyer, executive director, and CEO, Thomas Cook India said his company’s central tour management team is in continuous coordination with their offices on ground, their partners, local authorities and tour managers in Sri Lanka to closely monitor the ongoing situation and will keep their customers informed with regular updates.
“For future departures, basis updates and requests from our booked customers, we will accordingly offer best options; to either defer their travel, or provide best alternate destinations basis availability, visas/documentation and pricing. For our customers who prefer to cancel, we will provide a travel voucher, thus enabling them to reschedule at a time of their choosing,” Iyer added.
Sri Lanka is a favoured destination for leisure, business and MICE, and numbers to the country had been steadily growing thanks to multiple short haul flights and an easy visa regime.
Sri Lanka had set a target for 440, 000 Indian arrivals in 2018. Sri Lanka’s Tourism Promotion Bureau did not respond to an email seeking comments till the time of going to press.
Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings said all the company’s guests in Sri Lanka were safe and that the company was monitoring the situation. Most of our tourists are holidaying in different parts of Sri Lanka such as Kandy and Bentota. We are getting updates from our local office in Sri Lanka and will guide our customers accordingly,” he added.
The country’s defence ministry said that the majority of the explosions were suicide bombings.
Sharat Dhall, COO, B2C at Yatra.com said enquiring customers are currently holding off bookings for the country.