Israel Visitors depart

Arugam Bay has always been very popular with Visitors, surfers and party people from Israel.
As soon as news of the Middle Eastern Conflict were received almost every single affected person packed up.
And made arrangements to return home, With Immediate Effect.
In an amazing show of solidarity, for the support of their Nation and family hundreds left towards the airport in chartered buses.
All of a sudden the resort is quiet. And only a few are out to catch the still existing waves.
Below is an extract from a local newspaper on this matter:

In Sri Lanka, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickramaratne has issued instructions to all police stations and to the Tourist Police Division to identify hotels, guest houses and other accommodation where Israeli citizens are lodged and provide necessary security for them. There are currently about 12, 000 Israelis in Sri Lanka according to information provided by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), an officer from the Tourist Police Division said.

So far, there has only been one incident of harassment of Israeli tourists directly linked to the hostile environment created by the conflict. In Arugam Bay, two female Israeli tourists had allegedly been verbally abused by a man who had threatened them and demanded they leave Sri Lanka. He was arrested and produced in court following a complaint lodged by the tourists. Police said the Sri Lankan man had been under the influence of liquor.

Such incidents and a prolonged conflict could have terrible consequences for those who rely on tourism from Israel. Manjula Prasad, who has been working with Israeli tourists visiting Sri Lanka for 14 years, said the incident at Arugam Bay was posted on a Facebook and WhatsApp group for Israelis in Sri Lanka that had over 28, 000 members. The group consists of those who have visited Sri Lanka or are already here. “Israelis in Arugam Bay were advised to leave immediately after the incident and we know that many packed up and moved to the southern coast,” he claimed. Mr Prasad said it was essential that authorities treat such incidents seriously and take action to assure the safety of Israeli tourists.

He said the war could not have come at a worse time for tourism from Israel given that it has increased significantly in recent times. “I wasn’t home most of this year because I was taking Israeli tourists around the country. But since last Saturday, I have had seven upcoming tours cancelled. The situation is the same for everyone else taking Israeli tourists.”

According to the SLTDA, 9326 Israelis visited the country last year. By September this year however, that number had already doubled to 18, 449. There was potential for an increase in numbers due to the start of direct flights between Tel Aviv and Colombo this year.
Israel’s Arkia Airlines is due to start direct flights between Israel and Sri Lanka from October 31. “The airline told me that they had over 8000 bookings from Israelis from October 31 up to March. Most of them likely won’t come now as they would be on the battlefield,” said Ambassador Nimal Bandara.

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