Last week, our Co-Founder Alexis Bowen sat down on Instagram Live with our Colombo-based Local Expert Thushni de Silva, to discuss all things Sri Lanka. In previous months, Elsewhere had been working to make Sri Lanka a destination we offer our travelers, given its picturesque beaches, lush forests and life-changing experiences.
Unfortunately the launch was delayed last July due to the growing civil unrest in the country. The uncertainty and conflict happening within Sri Lanka over the last several months have made headlines and consequently made travel within the country complicated—we thought, who better to discuss the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka but our local expert?
“We really want to make sure that we’re traveling responsibly and that we’re only having a positive impact on the host destination,” Bowen said. “[Thushni’s] insight about what’s happening on the ground, because like we said, we have the news, but it’s so insightful to hear [her] opinion and actually recount [her] personal experience.”
The main concerns revolved mostly around the lack of fuel and power. In the early days of the protests, people were forced to wait in lines for hours to get fuel and there were frequent blackouts. More recently, residents have been investing in generators to combat any type of blackout and fuel has been more accessible each day.
“[Initially,] it was honestly just to protest with no violence, based on love and acceptance,” Thushni said. “But when the Prime Minister was ousted, they brought in mobs from everywhere around the country, lined them up and set them loose on the protesters causing the first incident of violence.”
Despite unrest, Thushni planned trips for travelers throughout the summer. All of them went off without a hitch.
“When a couple of the countries changed the travel advisories against travel to Sri Lanka, we already had clients here. So everyone here, they were like, ‘We’re having a great time. We’re just gonna stay on,’” Thushni said.
Thushni emphasized how welcoming residents are to visitors, given how important tourism is to the Sri Lankan economy. In 2018 tourism made up 5.6% of their GDP, in 2020 that number had fallen to .8%. The lack of tourist dollars has only added to the country’s economic troubles. Tushni’s travelers told her how locals were always thanking them for taking a chance on Sri Lanka.
“The easiest and the most effective way to combat this problem is to bring in [more money] And the easiest form of doing it is tourism. And luckily everyone in the country knows this,” Thushni said.
“There’s still so much untouched beauty as well,” Tushni went on to say. “And that’s one of the things I love about this job because I get to go and explore it. Just two weeks ago I was in the forest finding new waterfalls. There was no one around, and it was just amazing. There’s plenty to see, plenty to discover, both for you and me.”
Whether you want to book a trip to Sri Lanka now or later, Thushni will definitely create an experience you won’t forget. For her part, she still gets knocked out when exploring her homeland, like when she and her husband went kayaking for his birthday. She described it as “a moment of magic that you just can’t create.”
“I can’t replicate that [moment] for you, but chances are, you will have an experience which is as amazing, which is as unexpected, somewhere along your holiday,” Thushni said. “And we try to make space for moments like that.”