Visit Sri Lanka
An Australian Cricket Tour of Sri Lanka does not come often enough. Saying this, we are already scheduled to return in Feb 2025. Go figure, it was 6 years since our last Sri Lanka Tour, we now only wait another 2.5 years to Visit Sri Lanka.
Though smashed 3-0 by Sri Lanka in 2016, the excitement at returning in 2022 to our favourite nation to follow cricket was high (even if smashed again), especially after visiting in Feb on my way to the Australian Cricket Tour To Pakistan, and in April for a pre-tour tour. It was great to be back.
The crisis in Sri Lanka 2022 however was a thorn, creating uncertainty if even the Australian Cricket Team would travel, and if fuel shortages and unrest would blight the tour. It didn’t affect us in Sri Lanka, it affected 43 people who chose not to tour with us because of the threat they believed they would face.
After investing two weeks in April amid the unrest, walking through protests, seeing endless queues at petrol stations, and meeting our friends at Walkers Tours, who facilitated our hotel and transport, I knew nothing would hamper the tour. There was no risk of anyone being violated, stranded, or starved. It just wasn’t going to happen, no matter how confidently I expressed to those still weighing in.
I understand governments protecting their citizens, but this is not (insert dangerous nation here). How can my walking through protests, experiencing little, seeing not much, going to restaurants, pubs, bars, travelling safely by car, train, bus, rickshaw or foot, to everywhere I needed to go, be any different to what government workers living there, experience?
Telling Australians to 'reconsider their need to travel' was an overreactive knee-jerk. If anything, the government should have encouraged Australians to Visit Sri Lanka.
Yes, there was heavy fuel and some food shortages, but through our 6 weeks there was fuel and there was food (aplenty!). Using Walkers Tours meant we had fuel priority, which everyone understood when we went to the front of the line, the same with hotels & resorts always being stocked with food & drink. Nothing was allowed to directly affect tourism, that which brings most of Sri Lanka's inbound currency.
Restaurants & bars local to hotels and in large towns that relied on local fishermen, meat and vegetable suppliers, and drink providers, never ran out. We never went thirsty. We never went hungry. Now and then we couldn't have scampi, but what we missed one night, we had the next.
Eating and drinking to the nth degree just gave more back to the people, and quite often we didn’t have a choice. Many restaurants served giant portions. Considering apparent food shortages, maybe they were over-compensating to keep us coming back, knowing there simply wasn’t the tourism foot traffic.
Inflation was affecting Sri Lankans, with price hikes for every consumable. On the other hand, we received more than twice as many rupees for our dollar than ‘usual’. In 2016 it was Rs112 for A$1. In April 2022 it was Rs235. In June it was Rs270. A beer at our resort in April was Rs850, and by June was Rs900, whereas beer from the bottle-shop only went from Rs320 to Rs340. Big change for Sri Lankans, not for us. There’s Rs1000, keep the change.
Mainstream media dramatises stories for effect, that’s their job. I agreed many times, yes, there was a bus burning on the street filled with angry people. What wasn’t told was that it was only one bus, with unrest limited to a few blocks. Sri Lanka was not on fire, burning every bus in every village, looting, lynching randoms. When we did Visit Sri Lanka in 2022, life continued as if there was not a blot of unrest.
Australia toured Sri Lanka in 1982, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2002 (when too dangerous to tour Pakistan!), and 2004 when a civil war was raging. The ICC Champions Trophy was in Sri Lanka in 2002. There was no advisory saying, ‘reconsider your need to travel’, at least not in 1999, 2002, and 2004 when we toured, so why in 2022?
There were railway delays, fewer buses, inflated rickshaw pricing, and shortage of taxi-vans, but we still got what we needed. There was only 10% tourism but only 10% transport on the road, so everything was still balanced. You walked to the street and a rickshaw pulled up. Some train services were cancelled, but trains still operated.
As many know, when leaving, Sri Lankan Airlines flew to India for fuel before flying to Australia. Mechanisms were in place to keep the people moving, eating, drinking, surviving. Most Sri Lankans were more focussed on life, than strife.
I hope next time we face a similar crisis, one affecting people’s decisions to tour, that firstly people look to see if the cricket team is going. If they go, it can’t be that bad. Secondly, you need to remember seeing lots of Australian Cricket Tourists on TV in Sri Lanka, surviving the 'riots & terror' with beer, colour, fun, and cricket.
Governments will never say 'visit Sri Lanka', but if we were at any genuine risk, we wouldn’t go. No one that suffered the Sri Lanka 2019 Easter bombings thought they were at any risk, reaffirming what we always say, ‘you can’t help random’!
We all survived and thrived in Sri Lanka in 2022, so if you want a super-cheap holiday, VISIT LANKA. This beautiful country and beautiful people need your help. Spend your money, get a tan, relax, drink plenty of tea & arrack, eat lots of rotis & hoppers, have a whizz jolly good time and go home wondering why you didn’t go before.
Who’s coming on our Australian Cricket Tour To Sri Lanka 2025???