A year ago, Dinesh Perera and his friends owned and operated the only two LGBTQ-friendly accommodations in Colombo: Mahasen by Foozoo and Mahasen Terrace by Foozoo. Both hotels sat opposite each other on Mahasen Mawatha, a quiet road in a residential neighborhood in Colombo.Foreign and domestic visitors flocked to them, drawn to their cooking sessions and rooftop drinks, places where the clinking of the morning coffee cups, chit-chat and laughter filled the air, providing an escape from the busy metropolis.But those days are long gone.
“Our chapter in Mahasen Mawatha has come to an end,” Perera tells CNN Travel, referring to their decision to shutter both their Colombo properties in December.They are not alone. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many tourist service providers around the island have had to close. However, for some Sri Lanka establishments, their troubles began well before Covid-19 forced the world’s borders to close.
From one crisis to another
As the global crisis began to unfold, Sri Lanka was only just starting to recover from a completely different tragedy. Tourism in the country was hard-hit by the Easter bombings of April 2019, reducing tourist arrivals to just over 37,000 in May 2019 — a 70% drop from the previous year.”We were only beginning to get our usual bookings in November and December (of 2019) after the Easter attacks,” Perera says, referring to their months-long recovery.Unlike other hotels that didn’t fare so well, both Foozoo properties continued to have guests during the first wave of Covid-19.”We had bookings during the first lockdown. Most foreigners stranded in the country decided to make Foozoo their long-staying home,” Perera says.
Daily reported Covid-19 cases
Sri Lanka closed its borders to international tourists while imposing a police-mandated curfew to control the spread of Covid-19, which lasted for more than two months.As the restrictions eased after the first wave, Perera continued to receive domestic tourists.”It was just enough to keep our business afloat,” he says.Then came the second wave in October.Since then, Covid-19 numbers continued to rise. As of February 8, the country has recorded more than 68,000 cases and 351 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.”I remember we had bookings for October, but with the news of the second wave, all of them got canceled. We didn’t receive any guests after that. It wasn’t sustainable to keep running on losses. So we had to take the hard decision to close,” Perera says.