The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British government has lifted their advice against British tourists visiting certain areas of Sri Lanka, opening up Yala National Park in the south of the Island, as well as most of the eastern coastal belt including Arugam Bay and Trincomalee, less than 2 months after the declaration of countrywide peace.
The British High Commissioner Dr. Peter Hayes stated:
“I am pleased to announce that we have relaxed the restrictions on travel suggested in the advice we give to British visitors coming to Sri Lanka. We no longer discourage British holidaymakers from enjoying leopard-spotting at Yala National Park, surfing at Arugam Bay, or admiring Trincomalee harbor, one of the world’s deepest natural ports. We’ve taken this decision based on our assessment of the improving security situation in these parts of Sri Lanka.”
After many years of warning against visiting parts of the east and south-east of Sri Lanka, the move by the Foreign and Commonwealth office is a welcome and rapid response to the improved security of these areas of the island following the declaration of peace in May 2009, after 30 years of conflict.
On hearing the announcement, Sanjika Perera, director of Sri Lanka Tourism UK & Ireland, commented:
“We are delighted that the FCO has taken action so swiftly to clear UK tourists to experience these key tourism areas of Sri Lanka. This decision is hugely significant for our plans to redevelop the east coast of our island. For example, Yala has been off-limits to UK tourists for many years and will be a great addition for those who want to spot excellent wildlife, including leopards. We are convinced that this will raise the number of UK visitors over the course of 2009/10.”
This policy update comes as the international “Champion of Champions” Pro Surf Tour event kicks off in Arugam Bay on the east coast of Sri Lanka. The week-long event, which began on July 1, features the UK’s top professional surfers, international stars, and local Sri Lankan surfers and is returning to Arugam Bay after a two-year break.