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Easter bombings in Sri Lanka will delay 'everybody's plans' for investment, hotelier says

Key Points
  • "We were just about ready to start again, on another hotel ... and now look at what's happened," said Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts.
  • The hospitality company's prior ventures in the country were halted by the assassination of then-Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa and a tsunami.
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Sri Lanka attacks will delay 'everybody's plans': Banyan Tree

One international hotelier said Tuesday that its plans to enter the Sri Lankan market would be put on hold after Sunday's terrorist attacks on hotels and churches.

"We were just about ready to start again, on another hotel ... and now look at what's happened," said Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts.

On Easter Sunday, bombings struck three churches and four luxury hotels in the country. Around 500 people were injured and 359 were killed in the attacks, according to current tallies. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the blasts, and at least 60 suspects have been detained for questioning. Emergency law and an overnight curfew have also been declared.

Speaking to CNBC's Martin Soong at the Credit Suisse Global Supertrends Conference in Singapore, Ho described the incident as "incredibly tragic."

"We've always stayed very close to Sri Lanka and what's happening and so on, always wanting to get back in again," he said. But, he added, the attacks will now delay "everybody's plans."

The hospitality company's two prior ventures in the country were halted by the assassination of then-Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa and a tsunami.

"If you look at what happened with any major terrorist activity ... tourism is the most, most susceptible to event risk," Ho said.

While he said tourism took 10 years to "come back" from bombing incidents in Bali and Morocco, he expressed hope that it will only take three to four years in Sri Lanka.

"But it's not going to be ... people bouncing back," he said. "It won't be."

Until the tourism industry in the country recovers, businesses must "dig deep" and "brace themselves for a difficult period," Sri Lankan Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake told CNBC's Sri Jagarajah.

"You can't gloss over this period, you have to be very tough. The government will support you in any way possible," Dissanayake said Wednesday in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

Tourism is a major contributor to the Sri Lankan economy, accounting for around 11% of gross domestic product, consultancy Capital Economics said in a Tuesday report, citing estimates from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

An expected hit to the tourism sector would add pressure to the government's already troubled finances, said Capital Economics. The consultancy has slashed its 2019 GDP growth forecast for Sri Lanka to 1% from 3.2%.

— CNBC's Yen Nee Lee and Reuters contributed to this report.