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Will Sri Lanka’s economic crisis affect me as a tourist?

The paradise island of Sri Lanka, a country dependent on tourism, is currently in an economic crisis. The road to recovery is long, and the tourist industry has been somewhat affected. But in general, you will still have a great time travelling to Sri Lanka for your holiday travels!

Tourists and fuel are essential to our operations as we’re in the tourism industry and the tuktuk rental business. We monitor the situation closely and keep sharing updated information here.

FUEL

The economic crisis means less money to buy fuel, resulting in shortages, closed fuel stations, and queues at fuel stations. You’ve probably seen the images in the news from the beginning of the year, long queues and no fuel. Since then, a lot has improved. In August, a QR Code Fuel Pass system was introduced to limit distribution based on a quota.

You’ve probably seen the messages in the news regarding long queues at petrol and gas stations in Sri Lanka. At the beginning of the crisis (back in February/March) and before this news hit internationally recently, this had already hit the Sri Lankan news. What resulted is a massive run to fuel stations and people wanting to fill up before it runs out, but what happens when everyone wants to fill up simultaneously? Exactly, long queues and it runs out even quicker. This resulted in a temporary shortage till they get filled up again. Even outside of this crisis, fuel stations are generally quite busy, especially in the western and southern parts of the island, which are more densely populated.

Petrol is what is most important to tourists renting a tuktuk. Initially, our customers and other tourists did not have much trouble finding petrol. In April, there was a couple of weeks of petrol shortage around Kandy (long queues), but that has largely been solved.

Sometimes, as there are also power cuts, the electrical pumps don’t work. Thus the fuel station is closed temporarily. If there is no electricity, this results in long lines, which makes sense. This happened a lot in the beginning when there was a diesel shortage, but not much now.

In the beginning, we have had customers drive around finding fuel stations with long lines, to drive to the next one, which is closed, but the next one has no lines. There was no sense to make of all of this, other than many people starting to panic when they see a queue thinking it’s running out, so they join the queue to be sure.

Since then, things have improved, and petrol availability is improving daily! We have seen a steady supply of fuel shipments arriving into the country. Petrol distribution mostly supplies to densely populated areas such as Colombo, Kandy, and Galle where most petrol vehicles are on the road. At the same time, outer suburbs are receiving petrol currently on a slow note. That means you have more chance of pumping fuel in the outskirts where you would mostly travel.

There are special days (mostly Fridays) where CEYPTECO DISTRIBUTES FUEL TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES. This means doctors, police, army, religious leaders, etc. Often also tourists are able to fuel up their tanks here, as the MINISTRY OF TOURISM HAS DECLARED TOURISM AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE. When pumping fuel for essential services at a fuel station, check with the police or army present if you can get fuel.

Lanka IOC has been the stable petrol provider in Sri Lanka, filling up their fuel stations every 2 or 3 days. When there is petrol at a shed, you will get priority with the fuel letter (see below). The RECENT PARTNERSHIP WITH LANKA IOC to build new storage tanks in the country will provide fuel sufficiently.

We are posting updates about the situation at the end of this blog!

FUEL PASS CARD

The Tourist Fuel Pass Card is a unique foreign currency top-up card introduced during Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Tourists can use it to get unlimited fuel and priority access at fuel stations when self-driving a tuktuk around Sri Lanka.

The MINISTRY OF POWER AND ENERGY, THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM and Lands, DIALOG TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND SAMPATH BANK have launched the Tourist Fuel Pass or Card to help tourists with fuel quickly when self-driving around the island.

Please check out our blog post HERE for more information about this special card.

FUEL STOCKS

Over the months we’ve been able to stock up some fuel at friends around the island. We work with many mechanics and other tourism professionals. They love our business and have helped secure petrol from time to time. This, however, is subject to availability.

We’re working with the Board of Investment (BOI) companies and factories who have already been able to secure bulk petrol. But they need USD for their own imports, something we have and thus its easy to trade in some instances.

We’re currently working on buying our own petrol directly from importers, once this is done petrol will be easily available for all our customers!

FUEL FROM ARMY CAMPS

At the end of June, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority set up an emergency fuel system. Customers through companies registered them, were able to get fuel at selected army camps around the island. It has currently been discontinued but is likely to resume soon!

THE FRIENDLY SRI LANKAN PEOPLE

As Sri Lanka is a country dependent on tourism, there are many people willing to help! Our customers have been experiencing that people in queues insist they go first, police that have let them pass petrol queues, fuel station managers that ask them to come forward, and the list goes on!

But even hotel owners that have extra fuel stored at their places or send someone to get fuel for you, truly the hospitality of the people towards tourists in this crisis has been amazing. Once you book, you can message or call ahead and ask them to secure some fuel for you!

I think everyone understands that tourists bring foreign currency to the country, so it’s best they have no hinder to the current economic situation on the island.

FOREIGN CURRENCY CRISIS IN SRI LANKA AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE ECONOMY

The reason for all this is that Sri Lanka has been having some problems with its foreign currency reserves (Euro and USD on the central bank account) for quite some time. Since the 2019 easter attacks and then the COVID pandemic, less foreign currency has come into the country to buy essential and luxury products from overseas, for which you need foreign currency to purchase.

For example, since 2020, there has been an import ban on vehicles. This includes tuktuks! Resulting in a thriving second-hand market where a tuktuk which cost 1 million LKR in 2020, costs a whopping 1.6 million rupees now!

Spare parts, for instance, also don’t get into the country. Resulting in increased prices for spare parts to fix tuktuks. Oil is the same story, getting quite expensive. We, however, continue to offer our product at the same rates to tourists but have chosen to raise the rates we pay our tuktuk owners.

At the moment, tourists are one of the largest sources of foreign currency to the island. But with the war in eastern Europe, tourists from Russia and Ukraine have declined rapidly, who have always been large contributors to the tourist economy. Besides that, many exports like TEA which go to these countries, have decreased.

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