Sri Lanka Seeks To Launch Indian Travel Bubble

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Sri Lanka is hoping to launch a travel bubble with India to revive the country’s tourism industry. The bubble would allow travelers to visit both countries without quarantines, a first for either nation. However, any such bubble has been delayed until India has contained its second wave of cases.

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SriLankan Airlines has been planning for a possible travel bubble in recent weeks, hoping to boost its passenger numbers. Photo: Getty Images

Restart

According to The Hindu, Sri Lanka is pursuing a travel bubble arrangement with India in the near future. The island nation has seen its tourism numbers fall rapidly since last March and with a minimal domestic market to cater to, is looking to reopen its international borders.

India is the biggest source of tourists for Sri Lanka and given the proximity between the countries, it is a prime target for a bio-bubble. Indians accounted for 18% of all tourist arrivals in January 2020, the last month before the pandemic disrupted global travel, making it key to the economy.

SriLankan Airlines A320
SriLankan Airlines hopes to see tourists return to the nation in the coming months. Photo: Getty Images

It is important to note that Sri Lanka is looking to create a bio-bubble with India and is already a part of India’s “travel bubble agreements.” The country joined this list last week, allowing flights to resume after a long halt.

If successful, it would be the first bio-bubble in South Asia and could mark the restart of international travel in the region.

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Not yet

While there have been ongoing discussions about the bio bubble in recent weeks, all the plans will have to wait. India is currently in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 that is proving to be far more powerful than the first. With daily cases well over 250,000 and deaths quickly rising, more and more countries have been banning travel from India in recent weeks.

Sri Lanka has also clarified that it will be waiting for the second wave to die down before opening up a bio bubble between the countries. The country has also been battling rising cases since October, pushing up the total cases to over 97,000 currently.

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India Repatriation
Rising cases in India has meant that the bubble has been postponed for now. Photo: Getty Images

For SriLankan Airlines, India is effectively the airline’s de-facto domestic market. The carrier flew to a whopping 14 destinations in India prior to the pandemic, making it the single most important market for now. Colombo serves as an important hub for connecting flights as well, flying to China, Australia, and beyond.

Soon

While any bio bubble date has been delayed, both governments insist this is just a postponement rather than a cancelation. The coming months will provide more clarity about when such a bubble will be feasible and what requirements will be in place. Testing will likely continue to be mandatory for any bubble considering both countries have active cases.

Globally, only a few bio bubble agreements have rolled out smoothly. New Zealand and Australia kicked off their long-awaited bubble this week, after months of deliberations. However, both countries have near-zero COVID-19 cases and there are no additional requirements for travel.

What do you think about a possible India-Sri Lanka travel bubble? Let us know in the comments!

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