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Lonely Planet's top destination Sri Lanka suffers a blow after blasts

Updated : May 16, 2019 11:52 AM IST

Sipping fresh coconut water while sunbathing on deserted Hikkaduwa beach, Alexi Konchayenko, a sports trainer from Ukraine, struck a stoical note. Bomb blasts can happen "anywhere, anytime," he said, adding that he was not afraid. "Sri Lanka is an amazing country. This is my first visit and I will tell my friends also to come." His is a lone voice — and a lone presence. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide's top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled. Many of those booked to come in the next few months have canceled. Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted by 85 percent to 90 percent. The tropical beaches, restaurants and shops are empty. The coordinated suicide bombings on April 21 not only destroyed lives but also wiped out the livelihoods of Sri Lankans who depend on tourism. More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the US and the UK, died in the Islamic State group-claimed blasts. Tourists normally come to Hikkaduwa, in the southwest, for the strong waves that are perfect for surfing and sparkling clear waters made for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, very few are open. Most, along with the eateries that line the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed.

In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan walks past a souvenir shop in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled.  (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan walks past a souvenir shop in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled.  (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a boy walks on a beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Hikkaduwa, in the south west, used to be top tourist attraction before the blasts for the strong waves that were perfect for board-surfing and sparkling clear waters perfect for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, a very few are still open while most of others along with the eateries lining the six kilometer stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a boy walks on a beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Hikkaduwa, in the south west, used to be top tourist attraction before the blasts for the strong waves that were perfect for board-surfing and sparkling clear waters perfect for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, a very few are still open while most of others along with the eateries lining the six kilometer stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a street that is usually crowded with tourists is seen empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners who are mostly from China, India, the US and the UK, died in the series of suicide bombings by Islamic State and its local affiliates in churches and hotels in the capital, Colombo, and across the country on April 21. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a street that is usually crowded with tourists is seen empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners who are mostly from China, India, the US and the UK, died in the series of suicide bombings by Islamic State and its local affiliates in churches and hotels in the capital, Colombo, and across the country on April 21. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, the 17th century built Dutch fort, which was a popular tourist site, stands empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, the 17th century built Dutch fort, which was a popular tourist site, stands empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan reef safari boat operator stands on an empty beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.  (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan reef safari boat operator stands on an empty beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.  (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, lounge chairs lie on a deserted beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, lounge chairs lie on a deserted beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan street painter looks at his mobile phone as locals stand along the 17th century Dutch built rampart of the Galle fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan street painter looks at his mobile phone as locals stand along the 17th century Dutch built rampart of the Galle fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, foreign tourists walk on the rampart of the 17th century built Dutch fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, foreign tourists walk on the rampart of the 17th century built Dutch fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, Jan Van Twest, the general manager of Fortress Resort and Spa, speaks to The Associated Press in Galle, Sri Lanka. “In the past we have had about many serious crises and we have recovered. I am quite positive we can do it again,” Twest said. According to the government’s tourism agency, the tourist arrival has shown a 80 percent decrease after the attack. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, Jan Van Twest, the general manager of Fortress Resort and Spa, speaks to The Associated Press in Galle, Sri Lanka. “In the past we have had about many serious crises and we have recovered. I am quite positive we can do it again,” Twest said. According to the government’s tourism agency, the tourist arrival has shown a 80 percent decrease after the attack. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Ukrainian woman and a child walk past glass bottom boats, used for watching coral reefs, on a beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Ukrainian woman and a child walk past glass bottom boats, used for watching coral reefs, on a beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019 photo, a Russian man helps a woman with a snorkel mask in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.(AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019 photo, a Russian man helps a woman with a snorkel mask in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.(AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, hotel staff walk past an empty restaurant at a hotel in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, hotel staff walk past an empty restaurant at a hotel in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. (AP)
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