Brits advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka as Tui cancels more holidays
Posted on July 6th, 2022

Courtesy The Points Guy

The British government has again warned against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka as the island nation plunges deeper into economic turmoil.

Hours later, as tour operators scrambled to respond to the country’s worsening situation, Tui became the first to cancel all holidays to Sri Lanka until 18 July.

Britain’s largest tour operator said in a statement: Due to the ongoing political and economic instability in Sri Lanka, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) have advised against all but essential travel.

As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel all holidays to Sri Lanka departing up to and including 18 July 2022.”

It said customers will be proactively contacting all impacted customers in departure date order to discuss their options.”

The Foreign Office (FCDO) had placed a similar alert to travellers heading for The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” back in April amid rising tensions over shortages of fuel, cooking gas and medicine, as well as rolling power cuts.

Then it relaxed that advice on 13 May as the crisis appeared to ease after a state of emergency in the country was lifted.

But yesterday the FCDO reinstated the travel ban, warning of a severe economic crisis” that has led to shortages of basic necessities including medicines, cooking gas, fuel and food.”

There is a major shortage of fuel [diesel and petrol] affecting transport, businesses and emergency services,” the FCDO said. There are daily power cuts due to electricity rationing. This has led to protests and violent unrest.

Further protests, demonstrations, roadblocks and violent unrest could occur at short notice.”

What is happening in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a devastating economic crisis that has engulfed the island of 22 million people.

While the pandemic has had some impact on Sri Lanka’s economy, the president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, stands accused of economic mismanagement and corruption that has left the country in its worst financial crisis since independence.

Essentially, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have now dropped so low that the country cannot afford to import basic essentials such as fuel, food and medicines.

On 27 June the Government of Sri Lanka announced that remaining fuel stocks will be released only for essential services until 10 July.

After protests bled from the capital Colombo into the countryside, a state of emergency was declared on 6 May. The government then deployed troops and armoured vehicles across Colombo with security officials giving the military orders to shoot on sight anyone seen to be participating in violence or vandalism.

Protests against the government’s response to the crisis continue to pop up throughout the country. Government measures include electricity and fuel rationing causing daily power cuts and long waits at petrol stations. As a result, anger is growing as people and businesses battle to survive.

The situation has grown so bad in places that, two weeks ago, Sri Lanka’s military even opened fire to quell rioting at a fuel station as unprecedented queues for petrol and diesel were seen across the bankrupt country.

What is the UK foreign office saying?

In short, The Foreign Office’s advice is simple: don’t go.

It says: There may be delays accessing emergency services due to fuel shortages. There may be significant difficulties or delays obtaining fuel, food deliveries, taxis and other public transport. There are long queues at fuel stations (sometimes over 24 hours). Travellers should ensure transport plans are in place ahead of any journeys and have contingency plans.”

It said the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has launched an emergency assistance service to provide fuel for tourist service providers.

It adds: There are shortages of basic necessities, and there may be long queues at shops, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Hospitals and other medical services may be affected by shortages, including fuel shortages for ambulances. If you have a health condition, you should speak to your health care provider before travelling to Sri Lanka. Make sure you have adequate supplies of any medicines you need with you.”

I’ve a holiday booked – can I now cancel it?

Now that the Foreign Office (FCO) is advising against all travel to Sri Lanka, there is a good chance you CAN cancel and get a refund on your booking.

Your first port of call should be with your tour operator, as they may offer you a full refund. That is what happened the last time the FCO recommended against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka in May.

One tour operator which offers tours to Sri Lanka is Exodus Travels, which promised to refund any trips that are significantly affected by unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances”. It lists in its terms and conditions civil unrest or events arising out of political instability” as one such extraordinary circumstance, as is the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advising against travel to a particular destination.”

Some airlines have also offered to refund cancelled tickets, too, including Emirates, Qatar and Sri Lankan Airlines.

If all that fails, your insurance policy should now pay out. Before the FCO issued its official advice, insurers would likely have refused to cover cancelled trips. But now the advice is official, most policies should cover your costs. But as always, it’s important to check with your insurer first.

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