How your choice to #visitsrilanka can change the social & economic framework in the country.
by J. Natasha Gooneratne
In a moment, everything in the tropical island nation seemed to change.
Sri Lanka had enjoyed close to a decade of peace after the end of its internal conflict in 2009, quickly climbing the global map as an economic hub and premier travel destination. Lonely Planet ranked the country as 2019’s number 1 destination to visit. From its eclectic street food and picturesque landscapes to its vibrant history and its pleasantly non-touristy feel, Sri Lanka gained recognition as the sort place you visit once and are suddenly never quite the same again. It had the power to touch you and thousands of people from across the world made their way to the island to know if it was true.
After the explosions on April 21st both local and global media projected that this would change. Their ability to do so, arriving from a logical standpoint of past experiences; the attacks in Paris, Delhi, London and elsewhere would serve as a measure: Attacks = drop in tourism.
Yet in the days following the explosions in Sri Lanka, a new pattern seems to be emerging that provides a positive example of what international solidarity looks like at the grassroot level: that of tourists as a powerful social movement to exert a change in perspective.
Many tourists who were on the island at the time, opted to stay regardless of Foreign Embassy advisories in the immediate aftermath, which recommended restricted travel and caution. Social Media platforms including FB, Instagram and the more conventional LinkedIn, served as a stage for the voices of these travellers to be heard on why they decided to stay.
A closer examination of these posts and many others not featured here, point to a more pronounced understanding of the Easter explosions as being isolated events in an otherwise peaceful setting, and a strong encouragement to support the country by consciously not postponing or cancelling the decision to #visitsrilanka.
“You have heard this message already, not only in the past week or so, but in the past couple of decades as we stood in solidarity with New York, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and, sadly, many more…The purpose of the attacks we have witnessed worldwide is not only to claim the lives of people they target, but also the livelihoods of those who remain… We haven’t let them get away with it yet, so let’s not budge now. Support Sri Lanka by – keeping the conversation alive… – and most importantly, by supporting the country’s growing economy. Visit the paradise island” says Emma Debeljak on LinkedIn.
This sentiment is almost mirrored in a number of Instagram posts from travellers who were in Sri Lanka when the Easter explosions took place, deciding to stay, continue their travels and post images and narratives that provide an alternative paradigm to the large-scale media corporation chronicles that often drown out any other perspective on the ground. “…We are braving it out and trying to stick to our travel plans and also contemplating returning sooner. Here people are going on with their routine and work, even though they are in mourning! So stop spreading hate and spread some love, for a change! Encourage, not discourage!” was the message that natasha_shrotri , an insta influencer decided to share on her feed.
The messages and posts point to an endearing social move to shift the conversation and with it, the reality of next steps for Sri Lanka. Arrivals at Sri Lanka’s main airport is still seeing over 1500 arrivals a day, a development that analyst may have not expected so soon. But from the numerous posts being added on each day, it becomes more evident, that the way in which the world, particularly the social community we categorize as ‘tourists’, sees and responds to attacks like this is changing, and its effect, will hopefully be transformational for the communities that were affected by the attacks.
If this growing movement, succeeds in minimizing the effects on Sri Lanka’s economy and tourism industry, by fast tracking arrivals to a point of normalcy, it would appear that the understanding, lessons and cohesion gained from similar attacks around the world are now bearing fruit. The possibility of the resulting impact is massive for Sri Lanka, given that the travel and tourism industry supports 1 in 10 families on the island. As more Embassies and Foreign Governments begin lifting stringent advisories, directing caution but not in any way directly warning against travel to Sri Lanka, the country expects the number of arrivals to grow to greater numbers. Given the snapshot of posts and insights that current travellers in Sri Lanka are publishing, it appears that Sri Lanka may have a positive lessons-learned forum to provide the world with thanks to the social movement the world categorizes as ‘Tourists’.
From Across the World
“strength doesn’t come from what you can do… it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t ✨🌅🌅💕🌴✨ sunsets of #srilanka, friendly locals, beautiful sceneries, rich culture is what makes this country amazing. stay strong & #visitsrilanka … I will keep going back”
“This photo is from Sri Lanka from a story I did for @natgeo. My heart is with #srilanka right now.”
“Just one day before the attacks, here we were, just like any other tourist, going about our travel plans, enjoying the beauty of this country, oblivious to what was coming the next day. The Nine arch bridge is a beautiful train bridge in the middle of the scenic tea gardens of the hill station Ella. We are braving it out and trying to stick to our travel plans and also contemplating returning sooner. Here people are going on with their routine and work, even though they are in mourning!
So stop spreading hate and spread some love, for a change! Encourage, not discourage!”
“Maybe every shock, every difficult situation brings us closer to where we belong. What really matters. And in those intense days I‘ve found light in the shy goodbye hug of our lovely driver, in the feeling that there are people waiting for me at home. In these women – they were my sign of peace. ✨ #srilanka”
“A beautiful country! Nothing more needs to be said ! We love you Sri Lanka 🇱🇰❤️”
“If you are not there yet and are planning on travelling to Sri Lanka, PLEASE DO. There is no safest place than a country that recently had attacks. Don’t take the money source of that beautiful people. They are families, young kids, friends, cousins who are just putting their head of the water after a long and painful 25 year civil war. They invested a lot of themselves and of what they had to welcome us here, western travelers.
They are amazing hosts who now mostly live thanks to tourism. Since yesterday, many flights and accommodations were cancelled. Hundreds. Don’t make them pay the stupidity of others. DONT CANCEL YOUR TRIP. thank you”
“For the loss and pains that Sri Lankan people have suffered in recent bombings killing more than 300 people, on 23rd April 2019, all of Fashion Garments’s members in all locations participated in a minute’s silence ceremony in memory of the victims of the attack. The loss of Sri Lankan people is also the loss of people all over the world. Let’s pray for all Sri Lankan people. – A Factory in Vietnam showed their love by taking time out during their work day to participate in a minute of silence together ❤”
Videos – Showing support and solidarity to still #VisitSriLanka and not cancel.
Content Marketing Manager | English Content & Copywriter | Sustainable & Ethical Fashion
Sri Lanka was my home for 3+ years. I’ve been at a loss for words since the attack, but today I managed to put this video together. You have heard this message already, not only in the past week or so, but in the past couple of decades as we stood in solidarity with New York, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and, sadly, many more. I repeat it to keep the conversation alive, to keep Sri Lanka on your minds. … The purpose of the attacks we have witnessed worldwide is not only to claim the lives of people they target, but also the livelihoods of those who remain. To incite fear. To cripple economies. To make people vulnerable. We haven’t let them get away with it yet, so let’s not budge now. Support Sri Lanka by – keeping the conversation alive – donating to the immediate relief funds – and most importantly, by supporting the country’s growing economy. Visit the paradise island. Invest in their talented, warm and kind people. How do you choose to support Sri Lanka? #IStandWithSriLanka
Intergenerational Strategist | Speaker | Consultant | Millennial Workforce & Consumer Behaviour
“Why I will continue to visit and do business in Sri Lanka.”
Degrees Plus Australia connecting Sri Lankan youth to Australian University and college degrees
“Can I help Sri Lanka recover? Yes. As an individual, the only thing I can do to help is to continue to come to Sri Lanka to run my business. No. I am not touting for business. Just saying I will come in 4 weeks time and do what I do always do and hope it helps by keeping the wheels of industry turning. Its the only practical thing I can do outside of praying and hoping and loving Sri Lanka”