Sri Lanka to offer livestreams from wildlife parks to revive tourism industry

Sri Lankan authorities announced Wednesday that they will offer livestreams from the island nation’s wildlife parks, in a move to help revive a tourism industry that has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government’s Tourism Promotion Bureau said livestreaming will initially cover four national parks to showcase the South Asian country’s exotic wildlife, including leopards, bears, elephants, crocodiles and birds, among other animals.

The project will offer eight wildlife streaming video sessions of one hour each, which will be telecast through social media platforms and shared further through broadcast media, the bureau said in a statement.

Tourism in Sri Lanka — which was named the world’s top travel destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet — has suffered severely due to the coronavirus, with authorities indefinitely postponing their plans to reopen the country to tourists.

The government had planned to reopen to tourists on Aug. 1, but the plans were shelved when a new cluster of COVID-19 patients emerged in July.

Tourism is a vital economic sector for Sri Lanka, accounting for about 5% of its GDP and employing 250,000 people directly and up to 2 million indirectly. Several thousand hotel workers have been laid off since the pandemic started.

Sri Lankan health officials say that they have prevented a community spread of the virus, and that the patients now being reported belong to two known clusters. The country has reported 3,315 cases, including 13 deaths.

Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide curfew in March. The government gradually lifted the curfew in April and has taken steps to reopen the country in phases over the last three months, but schools and airports are still closed.

In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, Sri Lanka suspended all passenger flights and ship arrivals in mid-March, crippling the tourism industry.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, no tourists arrived in Sri Lanka in April, May and June. Data for July is not available yet. There was a 60% decline in tourist arrivals from January to August this year compared to the same period in 2019.

To meet the income loss, most hotels are offering discounted prices for local tourists.

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