Helpful information for visitors departing Sri Lanka (Updated as new information is received). This is for those seeking information on departures from the Bandaranaike International Airport after Easter Sunday Attacks in Sri Lanka.

  • Airport authorities have requested passengers to arrive 4 hours prior to flight departure time (the standard had been 3 hours). Most passengers who check in online or do not have to drop off baggage have done so with much less time in the past but in the current situation, it is best to follow given advice. Be aware that there might be overnight curfews. If a curfew is expected, discuss your travel plans with the hotel or designated service provider.
  • Drive times to the airport will vary according to the general traffic situation, time of travel and mode of travel. Roads have been deserted since the Easter Sunday attacks but life is expected to return to normal soon and with it, the traffic will increase.
  • Vehicles and passengers are thoroughly checked. This takes about 2 minutes on average per car and more for cars and vans with several passengers. This leads to a long line of vehicles. and leads to a long line of vehicles. Depending on flight traffic and the progress of checking, this last stretch (from the start of the traffic jam to the checking point) which is about 2km may take over an hour. Come prepared for this wait. There are no toilets along this stretch.
  • To make the process quick for you and easy for the security personnel, keep your vehicle tidy. Main luggage at the back and carry-on luggage with you and ready for inspection. Also, have your passport and ticket in your hands as you arrive at the security check. Once you are through with the security there is no hindrance. But you will have to get off the vehicle before the departure terminal and take your luggage with you. You could grab a trolley if you have more than a backpack.
  • All bags will be scanned. But if security feels suspicious they may do a detailed search. Once again, please keep your passport and ticket ready for inspection at all times.
  • Finally, be alert! Sri Lanka has enjoyed a whole decade of peace and as such enjoyed a high degree of freedom. That has all changed but you may find most security checks within the airport to be equal to what you find anywhere else. So, in general, avoid crowded areas and be on the look-out for suspicious persons or items. Once you clear immigration, there is a decent waiting area with a selection of coffee shops and restaurants.
  • ·We wish things didn’t have to be this way and we sincerely apologize for your negative experiences. We hope you would remember Sri Lanka for all the right reasons and would love to see you back in our Paradise Island someday.

Thank you. Bohoma Isthuthi 

Tags: Sri Lanka Security, Easter Sunday attacks Sri Lanka, Departures from Colombo International Airport, travel advisory Sri Lanka

Helpful information for visitors to Sri Lanka
(Updated as new information is received).  This is for those seeking information on arrivals at the Bandaranaike International Airport after Easter Sunday Attacks in Sri Lanka.

  • Ayubowan and welcome to Sri Lanka. Our sincere hospitality is legendary but in these difficult times we are truly awed by your decision to visit us. When they want to disrupt our way of life, our dreams and our simple joys, your arrival tells them loud and clear, that you nor we will be cowed down.
  • The enhanced security protocols mostly come into play once you clear customs. After collecting your bags and walk out the doors into the arrival lounge you will be presented with a large waiting area with numerous stalls. Previously you could have a person waiting for you here but now access is very limited.
  • Given the drastic security changes it is strongly advised that you organize your transfer with the hotel. There was a system in place but a lot of it has changed and we have not had enough time to adjust to offer a high level of service or efficiency.
  • If you are booked in with us or a major hotel, a relevant representative will be available to escort you to your car. If you are booked with us and have organized a transfer, look for our representative holding a name board with the given name.
  • If you are arriving on your own, you can use the services of the officially cleared taxi services operating from within the arrival lounge.
  • All passengers will be escorted out of the airport through a shuttle service. This is a new feature. Make sure you hold onto your valuables and travel documents.
  • There is a host of taxi services out there but they are known to overcharge so do your research in advance and make sure you are advised on what is a good price. The bus station is a few km and it is best that you take a tuk-tuk there. However it is best to avoid public transport from and to the airport when it is dark and services are limited.
  • Always make it a point to avoid crowded areas. When using public transport be alert to suspicious activity or parcels. The various security forces of Sri Lanka are doing a fantastic job in keeping us safe since the attacks but every little bit of alertness and care does help.
  • Travel times to your hotel vary depending on the time and mode of travel. Please be aware that curfews might be imposed (especially at night) and your driver may need to call over at a police (briefly) for security clearance.

The Tourism Police Number is, +94 112 421 052 or dial 119 for emergencies

If you wish to get a local phone connection, we recommend that you do it from the arrival lounge

We hope you enjoy your stay in Sri Lanka to the maximum.
Tags: Sri Lanka travel, Sri Lanka travel advisory, Sri Lanka security alert, Bandaranaike International Airport

Note: This article will be updated to reflect the changes in the ground situation.

Update (14/11/2018 11:40 AM) : Parliamentarians who voted in favour of the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse have signed a motion to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya reconfirming their calls. The majority voted ‘aye’.

Update (26/11/2018 4:30PM) : Following the initial NCM vote, there have been two further votes, both of which led to violent incidents within the parliament, as supporters of Rajapakse refused to accept the outcome. Those of the Rajapakse camp claim the Speaker is being partisan in how he chose to conduct the NCM vote. The Court of Appeal will take up a Writ of Quo Warranto filed by 122 MPs challenging Rajapakse and his purported government’s continuation in office on November 30. Meanwhile, a seven-judge bench to hear the petitions against the dissolution of Parliament will be taken up on December 3.

No sooner than Lonely Planet announced Sri Lanka as its #1 travel destination for 2019, governments around the world issued travel advisories warning their citizens about the sudden shift in Sri Lanka’s political climate. Fear not, however, as we’re here to tell you that our doors are still open and why it’s still safe to visit the resplendent island.

So what’s really going on? Well, at the moment of writing this, a few things have happened. Our president and prime minister came under scrutiny as their government, which came to power on a popular platform, could not deliver on its promises. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid responsibility, the president chose to remove the prime minister and appoint a new one, former president Mahinda Rajapakse. The president appointed a cabinet of ministers, issued a gazette to dissolve parliament, and elections have been called for January 2019. This was much to the ire of those opposed to the previous regime and those who uphold the constitution, which does not allow for it. On the other hand, many have been celebrating this change.

In fact, for the most part, it is civil society, concentrated in Colombo, that are riled up about the issue. Everywhere else on the island, from tourist destinations to the rural countryside, peace prevails and life goes on as usual. There has been one incident of violence when a mob attempted to assault a member of parliament and his security personnel fired at them. This happened in the heat of the coup, and since then it has been calm and memes have taken over. Politics is certainly on everyone’s mind, but the hospitality sector, in particular, is never shaken. As Lonely Planet rightly notes, our people defy all odds with our welcome and friendliness.

Be it the tuk driver, surf instructor, waiter or bus conductor, wherever you go, you’re sure to be greeted by a Sri Lankan smile. That’s just a part of our culture and our personality, a curious fact. You’d sometimes stop and marvel at how we manage to maintain this sense of optimism. Some attribute it to short-term memory, that we soon forget our troubles. Others choose to believe that we simply persevere. After having to turn away visitors time and time again over a 30-year conflict, we’ve spent the past decade, post-conflict, inviting the world to share in the delights of this country, and we’re not about to let some political misadventures spoil that.

So what’s in store for Sri Lanka? A Supreme Court hearing on November 12 and 13 led to a stay order on the Gazette. This allowed the parliament to be convened, today. A No Confidence Motion has been called against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.

Foozoo Travel is proud to be associated with Colombo Pride 2018

“Throughout Pride month, and in our daily lives, the LGBTIQ community is reminded that in Sri Lanka, one cannot enjoy Pride as most countries do. There are no large Pride marches on the streets of Colombo. Instead, Pride in Sri Lanka carefully celebrates our lives and who we are by holding a series of events that draw attention to the natural complexities and simplicity of LGBTIQ lives in this country. Draconian laws still remain in Sri Lanka and homosexuality is still illegal causing much damage to our society gay and straight alike.” – Rosanna Flamer-Caldera of Equal Ground

Colombo Pride is happening again this June and every year it seems it’s getting bigger and brighter. A fun pride party, an exciting city tour by bus and a kite festival have all become staples of the Colombo Pride calendar. And this year there are a host of other events to add to it. See details in the event calendar.

Beyond the fun activities and the intellectual conversations surrounding Colombo Pride, looms the unfortunate fact that British era laws criminalising homosexuality still exist. This combined with cultural stigma and general misinformation have resulted in profound unfair treatment befalling the island’s LGBTIQ community. Harassment and blackmail, violence and discrimination, rejection and humiliation continue to haunt the community affecting their lives, social structures and economic welfare. Global statistics point out that up to 10% of a population will be made of those who are LGBTIQ. Yet despite their contribution to every facet of life and the combined economy, Sri Lanka’s LGBTIQ community continues to be stepped upon and ignored. This is why Pride events are important. They give visibility to a community and demand that their stories be heard, represented and respected.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s private sector has been extremely backward in their views and actions on this matter. And this is particular sad when some of their global counterparts are actively embracing diversity and best practices in human rights. LGBTIQ rights are human rights and there is no reason, ground or ethic to think or behave otherwise.

This is why we are particularly proud to be associated with Colombo Pride 2018. In the first year of its operation, Foozoo Travel has represented Sri Lanka at IGLTA 2018, trained LGBTIQ Staff in hospitality and put Sri Lanka on the map of the discerning gay traveller. Foozoo Travel also commits to continuously support and welfare of the island’s LGBTIQ community.

Founder of Foozoo Travel, Sri Lanka makes some compelling points

The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is an international organization and a member-based global organization dedicated to LGBT tourism. The association has a global presence with member businesses in more than 80 countries and global ambassadors in more than 22 countries. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) was the first gay organization to receive affiliate member status in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in November 2010. In November 2015 the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association became an orgisational partner with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

The IGLTA Foundation supports the mission of IGLTA and its members through education, research and leadership development that benefits the global LGBTQ tourism industry. And this year saw the launch of the Discovery Series – Voices from LGBTQ Travel Professionals in Emerging Destinations.

The programme, conducted by IGLTA Hall of Fame award winner, Tanya Churchmuch of Much PR saw representatives from small to medium businesses speak about unique challenges they face back home. Participants included representatives from Brazil, Curacao and Uganda.

Contributing to the conversation, founder of Foozoo Travel, Dinesh Perera highlighted that destinations like Sri Lanka offer a multitude of challenges that are complicated by cultural norms and politicisation. His business that is contributing to the economy needs to appeal to international clients that value diversity, safety and authentic experiences yet communicate them in such a way that does not ruffle feathers. He also appealed for cohesive and strategic support in marketing communications, and visibility which organisations like the IGLTA can provide.

Another contributor touched on the important fact that the demographics of International travellers are changing. As marriage equality takes hold around the world and people are becoming more comfortable living their authentic selves, international travellers who identify as LGBTIQ are also increasing. They and their families value businesses and destinations that respect equality. Thus creating a strong business case for equality and non-discriminatory practices.

The Discovery series will continue at future IGLTA conventions and the points discussed in the first meeting will be revisited throughout the coming year. Foozoo Travel on behalf of other businesses like them hope that these discussions will deliver tangible and meaningful results.

Foozoo Travel Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Perera highlights some key observations affecting emerging markets like Sri Lanka

IGLTA 2018 through its programme line-up demonstrated an acute awareness of not only how important LGBTIQ travellers are to the global tourism but also how they are demanding more from their travel destinations. From sustainability practices, disability support, authenticity to acceptance of human rights, LGBTIQ travellers are far more involved and have broad considerations when deciding on where to go. Therefore the panel discussion titled ‘The Intersection of Human Rights and Tourism’ was one of the most well received and powerful moments of the 4 day event in Toronto, Canada.
The panel discussion which was sponsored by AIG was moderated by Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The panel comprised of Kevin Dallas, Chief Executive Officer, Bermuda Tourism Authority, Sean Howell, cofounder & President of Hornet, Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, Eagle Canada Human Rights Trust and Dinesh Perera, Founder of Foozoo Travel, Sri Lanka.
Mr. Fabrice kicked off the panel discussion by highlighting the publication of the Standards of Conduct calling on the private sector to scale up its game in contributing to the much-needed global social change on Human Rights of LGBTI people. He noted that these Standards have already received the support of more than 120 of the largest companies in the world. And this list is fast growing.
Here are a few other extracts from Mr. Fabrice’s opening statement.
“Tourism provides 10% of the world’s GDP, 7% of global trade and as many as one in every 11 jobs globally. Dee (Dinesh Perera) was mentioning yesterday that travel and tourism contributes to 11.6 % of Sri Lanka’s GDP. It is a voice that cannot be ignored and has the power to contribute to expand the historic shift in public attitudes we observed here in North America and need in most places of the World.”
“But business is now increasingly engaged in the fight to extend equality for the LGBT community – we are observing it in Singapore, Uganda or Hong Kong – and, we believe, business today has a critical role to play globally in support of those grassroots movements we see emerging around the world.
At this time of great flux – when huge gains made in many countries in the West, in Latin America and parts of Asia now need to be consolidated and extended, and when LGBT communities are more visible – and in some cases facing pushback – in parts of the world where they were previously relegated to the shadows – we need your help now more than ever to get all companies irrespective of their size and location in this industry to step up in meeting responsibilities and opportunities on the Human Rights of LGBTI people.

Contributing to the panel discussion and responding to questions, Dinesh Perera of Foozoo Travel Sri Lanka gave credit to all the many civil society personalities who have chipped away at the walls that have held LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka captive. He mentioned that this work continues with added energy and is more and more supported by business enterprises that see it as the right thing to do. And as a business organization that is LGBTIQ owned and catering to that segment, he highlighted their responsibility, fears and complexities in doing business and supporting the community at the same time.

Dinesh also highlighted work done by Foozoo Travel to make the LGBTIQ story more visible. These include openly marketing itself as an LGBTIQ friendly company, enrolling staff, providing training and engaging with other organizations and businesses connected to or supporting LGBTIQ businesses. He also brought attention to how this topic has been politicized, confused and grossly misrepresented by numerous groups. This he said continues to challenge them personally and as a business as the climate towards LGBTIQ persons and work can rapidly turn ugly.

Meanwhile, Kevin Dallas highlighted the international fallout for Bermuda Tourism as a result of changes to the same sex marriage ban. Sean Howell of Hornet touched on how his app is not just bringing community members together but also making positive changes and providing protection for communities in unsafe areas. Helen Kennedy brought in a lot of perspectives on staying engaged with the many stakeholders and staying focused even if it means that it will all take a lot more time.

Speak to Dinesh Perera or Foozoo Travel to transform your business to an LGBTIQ friendly one. Their consultancy platform offers practical and engaging means to educate the management, staff, partners and all stakeholders on being LGBTIQ friendly, accepting and nurturing.