COVID-19 Pandemic

Announcement on June 5 by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (official website of Sri Lanka Tourism – srilanka.travel):-

Sri Lanka Tourism ready to welcome tourists from 1st Aug 2020

‘Sri Lanka is readying to welcome travelers from across the world with safety guidelines and precautionary measures.’

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who can visit?

  • All nationalities are welcome and all types of traveler, whether groups, families, individuals.

Which airports will operate?

  • Bandaranaike International Airport [BIA], Colombo Ratmalana Airport [RMA] and Mattala Rajapaksa Hambantota Airport [MRIA] will be operating for tourist arrivals from Aug 1st 2020.

What are the visa procedures?

  • All travelers will require a valid visa; this will be issued for 30 days and extendable for up to 6 months after arrival. Online visa at http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/
  • Further relaxation for long stay guests is currently under consideration, enabling tourist to be granted five-year multiple entry visas with maximum 6 months stay.
  • Visa fee US$100 recently amended to $35.

Information required for visa application.

  • Booking details at Certified Accommodation.
  • Itinerary in Sri Lanka.
  • Return ticket.
  • Proof of medical insurance.

Where can I stay and is there a minimum duration?

  • A minimum 5-night stay in Sri Lanka is required.
  • Independent professional audits will be done to certify accommodation providers who will be listed on the Sri Lanka tourism website. Details of bookings made with Certified Accommodation providers are required for the visa application.

Pre departure Covid-19 PCR testing.

  • A negative PCR test is required prior to boarding your flight and on arrival in Sri Lanka. The test should be no older than 72 hours prior to boarding.
  • The airport will have high intensity sanitation measures in place for all areas and staff.
  • There is no quarantine on arrival unless symptoms are detected.
  • A PCR test would be done on arrival at the airport. No charge.
  • Currently it takes 24 hours to receive the test results. We are making changes to have results within 4-6 hours by August. In the event it is required to wait 24 hours for test results; you will be able to select a hotel for a one-night stay from Certified 4 or 5-star hotels in Colombo or Negombo until the test results are received.
  • A further test will be done 4-5 days after arrival by a mobile unit in coordination with your Certified Accommodation provider.
  • Travelers staying for more than 10 days will be required to take a third test during their stay. While this may be inconvenient it is essential to safeguard everybody and provide peace of mind.
  • In case of a positive PCR result, quarantine in a designated hotel or hospitalisation will take place depending on the details of the case. Quarantine would usually be 14 to 21 days if symptoms are detected.

Moving around Sri Lanka

  • The airport will have high intensity sanitation measures in place for all areas and staff.
  • To ensure your safety, please arrange transportation prior to your arrival, with your Certified Accommodation provider or travel agent. Public transport should not be used.
  • All tourist sites will be open from the 1st August onwards with safety protocols and measures in place to ensure the wellbeing of our travelers.
  • There will be no travel restrictions between districts for tourists.

What is Sri Lanka’s status with COVID-19?

  • Being an island, and thanks to the proactive measures taken, Sri Lanka has been able to manage the spread of the virus. No active community clusters have been detected in the last 30 days within the country.

Observations by Nick Buckingham – 23rd May 2020

On 18th March 2020, other than for the purpose of repatriating its own citizens stranded abroad (all quarantined on arrival), Sri Lanka closed all sea and air ports to incoming travelers – most strategically, Bandaranaike International Airport.

Public awareness of social distancing, wearing face masks, hygiene and high-risk groups followed immediately, as did widespread cooperation with strict lockdowns and district specific curfews. Capacity building, combined with a vigorous and successful campaign by the government, its healthcare sector, and uniformed forces; halting nonessential inter-village, cross-district and inter-province travel, and the isolation, quarantine and treatment of Covid-19 cases. Testing and effective tracing – albeit manual, segregated many who may have come into contact with the virus. They were quarantined at home, or within a nationwide network of quarantine centres established for the task. At times, effective tracing enabled complete lockdown and isolation of specific villages – just in case. There have been hardships, confusion, some heavy handedness and as everywhere, deep frustrations. A spike amongst Navy personnel for example, persisted for several weeks due to personnel going home on leave. These cases accounted for c50% of recorded cases at their peak, but overall the country has kept remarkably good control of the situation. I have remained here throughout, with a high degree of confidence and appreciation I might add.

While the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in many countries, I report (cautiously) that extreme levels of chaos and casualties experienced elsewhere have eluded Sri Lanka thus far. Naturally we want to keep it this way. Therefore, please forgive us if our abundant caution gets in the way at times!

Whilst an anecdotal view, Sri Lankans believe their islands’ tropical climate and indigenous remedies have mitigated widespread outbreaks. This may well be true, but focused leadership, disaster preparedness and the brave souls on the frontline are in my view, what kept the pandemic at bay.

Safety is Paramount & Must Sensitively Reflect This Challenge…

Every guest and member of our team must BE safe and FEEL safe – but not at the expense of reasonable, socially acceptable freedom. When we welcome you, we will explain the measures we are implementing for your comfort and peace of mind, as well as ours. Parallel to our own commonsense initiatives, we are adapting Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s ‘Safe & Secure’ guidelines to the hotels size and unique features.

To be perfectly candid, because of my age and pre-existing health conditions, were I in England at this time, I would be ‘shielding’ myself at home – most probably for the duration. You will find me at the hotel however, ‘fussing’ as the team call it, but hopefully entertaining guests too!! Obviously, I am acutely aware of my responsibility to keep everybody safe. If I thought for a moment I could not, I would neither invite you nor be here myself I assure you – life is too precious. We’re taking nothing for granted and, will remain vigilant until this crisis is over.

More Relaxed & Safer Space…

Buckingham Place is a small hotel as it is, with just 16 bedrooms and suites. But to more easily manage safety protocols and enhance an already ‘slow paced’ ambience, we are introducing extra measures to slow everything down even more! Key policies include discounting to encourage longer stays, and limiting overall occupancy of the hotel – the latter to allow extra time for the resting and preparation of rooms. Vacant rooms will be rested between guests; and sanitizing before, during and after guest occupancy will take place.

Open-Air Dining…

You will be able to reserve a regular table at Oceanfront – our spacious, open-air ocean-facing restaurant. Unless it rains heavily, which generally speaking is rare, doors and monsoon blinds will be kept open year-round as always, to allow the oceans breeze to circulate throughout. Alternatively, guests can dine next to swimming pools or under the stars, on their own verandas or balconies. Before mealtimes, tables will be spaced 3m apart but not set-up in advance.

One could never call our restaurant cramped! All the same, we are relocating half of our tables and will take reservations to limit restaurant capacity by 50%. Expect discreet sanitization of common areas to be continuous, and hand sanitizer at all entrances to common areas. Kitchen and front of house teams, as well as maintenance, garden and all back of house teams will be wearing role specific clothing and face masks.

Your meals will be prepared to order as before – buffets have never been our style!

Please Note…

Your health and safety will be overseen day to day by Kalpa Nuwan our GM, at my direction. Upon arrival, once we have checked your temperature and asked some simple health questions, you will introduced to the health protocols that encompass our team and guests alike, such as sanitizing, distancing, face masks, information gathering and contactless operations. We will avoid spraying disinfectants and other chemicals at you in view of recent W.H.O. advice!

Guests will not be asked to wear face masks when sunbathing or using gardens and swimming pools, and our aim is for the hotel and its restaurant to function as near to old-normal as possible.

As I Write…

Our last guests flew home on 26th March and the hotel has remained closed ever since. As I write (20th May); when our safety protocols are in place, subject to a functioning airport, we will reopen 1st August for early travelers.

Nick Buckingham
23rd May 2020