Sri Lanka is beautiful and its people are beautiful. It is an island nation that deserves properity after two decades of civil war.
But I found it wasn’t good value for money. Accomm is very expensive, given the options on offer in that part of the world. The previous government wooed Russian tourists (no visa fees etc) to the point that they now soak up the best accomm (that’s only smart).
But, hotel and restaurant managers told me,the Russians mostly buy up at the supermarket on arrival (being smart and thrifty), and consequently stay in their rooms, not eating out or spending. So, if the best accomm is taken but no resultant tourism revenue is flowing on into the local economy, the whole tourism sector is squeezed. I saw many tourism businesses struggling and their managers/owners upset.
I was at the main westcoast tourism strip, Hikkaduwa Beach, at the end of the tourism season (March) and it was mostly deserted at 6pm except for locals and bored bar staff. Even on Saturday nights. There were the Aussie surfing couples who have loyally been coming for 20 years, but they’re knackered by sunset after catching waves all day. A group of friendly couples from Prague knew how to have a laugh and a good time at the Aussie hangout, Ranjit’s Bar, but nit a Russian was to be seen. A hotel manager told me that on the odd occasion when Russians would “lash out” and stay up, the men would get drunk “and just want to fight everyone, including the staff”. Kind of stupid, when you think about it, as their lives will be in the hands of the very same staff at the next day’s surfing lesson.
Anyway, I decided to postpone the next stage of my Sri Lankan experience – to old Galle and a bus/railway trip up the mountains to beautiful Ella and Kandy – until another visit, after I saw online the rates being asked for accomm.
The government’s tourism policy I presume is a consequence of the geo-politics of the region: India (Tamil Nadu province) won’t resume facilitating the flow of weapons to Tamil insurgents in northern Sri Lanka if Russians tourists
and officials are likely to be among the victims of attacks, as that would bring Russian warships to continuously sit off the coast of India to protect Russian citizens. China, being India’s main economic and nuclear superpower rival, wouldn’t like it either.
But Sri Lankan tourism is the big loser.