Campaign to End Misleading Travel Advice

Jan 22 2024.

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Co-founder and Managing Director of Experience Travel Group Sam Clark, has gained the support of stakeholders of the Sri Lankan tourism industry from across the board and initiated a campaign to end misleading travel advice regarding the safety of UK nationals in  Sri Lanka given by the  Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The open letter  compiled by one of the UK’s leading travel companies  Experience Travel Group published a few days ago  says that the current advice is “overly harsh” and is “systematically undermining the travel industry in Sri Lanka.” The letter states “The island’s ancient temples, beaches, lush tropical scenery, and sheer variety of wildlife is extraordinary. There is perhaps no other country on earth with such complex biodiversity and cultural riches per square mile.”

Yet, it says, the UK government is retaining outdated and overly harsh travel advice which may deter British citizens from visiting. “Neighbouring countries benefit from more generous advice despite having more instances of British nationals being exposed to danger. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says it has recently revised Sri Lanka guidance. But the changes are synthetic and inadequate as officials persist in drawing attention to protests and violent unrest which have long since ceased. In fact, the whole system of FCDO advice appears to be inconsistent with most of Europe and North America escaping serious warnings, despite incidents of rioting, political unrest, and violent crime. These anomalies serve not only to diminish one country’s tourist industry but to undermine confidence in FCDO advice as a whole.”

38 MPs, peers, travel providers, businesses and well-known Sri Lankan personalities such as Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have also lent their support to this campaign. The campaign claims that the advice could damage tourism in Sri Lanka, negatively impacting the one in five people in Sri Lanka who rely on income generated by tourism. Clark states “It is clear that the FCDO travel advice is no longer fit for purpose in relation to Sri Lanka.

He adds “There is really no doubt in the minds of those who back the open letter that Sri Lanka is generally one of the safest places to visit in Asia. It is therefore misguided for the UK government to undermine the travel industry by retaining outdated travel advice which deters British citizens from visiting and directs income away from those who work within the tourism industry in the country. It is now time for the FCDO advice to be looked at and amended to better represent the safe and beautiful island that Sri Lanka is.”

The letter has received support from four members of the Sri Lankan All Party APPG, including current chair Dr Matthew Offord MP; founder and co-chair Rt. Hon. the Lord Naseby PC; Rt Hon. the Lord Dholakia OBE DL, and the Vice-Chair, Lord Brennan KC. In addition, Sri Lankans, Hon. Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism, Lands, Sports and Youth Affairs; Mr Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Nishad Wijetunga, President, SLAITO (Sri Lankan Association of Inbound Tour Operators) have backed the open letter which also details the effect on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which currently employs over 380,000 people.  

Clark is particularly keen that members of the Sri Lankan diaspora also throw their weight behind this campaign and requests those living in the UK to  “write to your local MP. Simple, direct actions where you outline your concerns about the existing foreign office advice and urge your representative to take a stand on behalf of Sri Lanka are crucial.” He adds “It only takes a few minutes to send an email to your MP, and if you don’t know who they are, you can find out at writetothem.com. We also want to see people join the campaign online. We have seen social media used as a positive force for direct action and change, as well as moving the news agenda forward in real-time. Sharing your experience of Sri Lanka, your views on the FCDO’s flawed travel advice, and tweeting with hashtag #SRILANKAISSAFE will help mobilise support across the globe.”

Offering his view as to why the FCO has dragged its heels over this matter and has not updated its advisory, Clarks explains “Alarmingly, the FCDO did actually update their advice in November 2023, so the issue is not the speed of review, but rather the continuing flaws in what they say. The advice is still based on out-of-date information, such as the anti-government protests and fuel shortages that took place back in early 2022. As such, it simply doesn’t portray Sri Lanka fairly or give accurate, up-to-date information to British travellers.  This is having a direct, negative impact on Sri Lanka’s economy, which is just a travesty.  We want to see more UK travellers coming to this beautiful and culturally rich country.”

Photo credit of Sam by Experience Travel Group

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]

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