Thinking of visiting Sri Lanka?
Think again.

Booking a package holiday? Virtually all tour operators use businesses that are of concern as part of some of their packages.

These include Kuoni, Saga, Thomas Cook, Mercury Direct, LetsGo2.com, STA Travel, Coral, Experience Travel Group*, Virgin holidays, Red Dot Tours, Karma Sri Lanka, Bales, Sha Lanka tours and Kenwood Travel.

You may also find products from businesses of concern if you use Sri Lanka specific tour operators or booking sites such as Expedia, Kayak, and Booking.com.

But this is not an exhaustive list. Using any package tour operator means that you risk having ethical decisions made on your behalf.

The most important thing is to make an informed choice. By asking your travel agent or tour operator for more information about who exactly is providing (and profiting from) your flights, accommodation, activities, and excursions, you can help local people to benefit from your visit, and avoid benefiting human rights abusers. Most tour operators will happily change providers if you ask.

Holiday providers linked to human rights abusers

These companies are associated with individuals and organizations ;implicated in war-crimes or human rights abuses. Until the perpetrators in Sri Lanka have been brought to justice we ask you to consider finding alternative providers for:

Further aspects of your holiday to consider

Please think carefully before staying with Sri Lanka's major hoteliers. They are the mainstays of an approach whereby the fruits of Sri Lanka's tourist boom are kept in the hands of international conglomerates and a few rich and powerful families; with little benefit to local people - especially those from ethnic minorities.

Click here to find out more about major hoteliers

Businesses linked to human rights violators

FLIGHTS

Sri Lanka Helitours bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Helitours

Helitours is the commercial arm of the Air Force and aims to be the leading domestic carrier in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Airlines bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Airlines

Sri Lankan Airlines is owned by the Government of Sri Lanka. The CEO Nishantha Wickremasinghe is the President's brother-in-law. Another director, Shameendra Rajapaksa, is the president's nephew.

The Government exerts strong control over the business (in 2007 the then CEO had his work permit cancelled for refusing to remove 35 passengers from a fully booked flight to make space for President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entourage), something which eventually resulted in the airline Emirates terminating its partnership in the company.

More recently the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered a flight from Switzerland to remove 56 passengers and use a smaller plane so that his niece's boyfriend could fly home a puppy for the family.

Sri Lankan Airlines flights are included in packages from Kuoni, Saga, letsgo2.com, Bales, Virgin, Kenwood Travel, Mercury Direct, Coral, Thomas Cook, STA Travel and Experience Travel.

Sri Lankan Airlines has mutual code-share services with BMI (British Midland), Etihad and Malaysia Airlines. Indian Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines also code-share on some of Sri Lankan Airlines's routes.

Mahin Lanka Airlines bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Mihin Lanka

Mihin Lanka is a subsidiary of Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd, named after Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Air Travel Services (PVT) bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Air Travel Services (PVT)

Air Travel Services (PVT) was registered as a private liability company in 2010 by Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General J Jayasuriya, and President of the Army 'Seva Vanitha' branch, Mrs Manjulika Jayasuriya. Initially established at the Army headquarters, the agency recently declared open an office complex in Colombo in a ceremony led by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

HOTELS & RESORTS

Killing fields resort bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
The "Killing Fields" resorts
Lagoon's Edge Resort & Nandikadal rest house
Mullaitivu

The Government of Sri Lanka has build a series of triumphalist attractions on the site of the last battles of Sri Lanka's civil war. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in this spot, and yet photos from the site demonstrate the extent to which their suffering is ignored and history rewritten.

The local "War museum" allows visitors to see a "terrorist swimming pool" and a crass war memorial adorned with Sinhalese imagery and statues of celebrating soldiers. Yet all attempts by local residents to grieve for dead are brutally suppressed by the military.

The Army run two hotels in the area, the Lagoon's Edge Resort & Nandikadal rest house. They also occupy much of the surrounding land. Meanwhile local residents are reduced to foraging though the belongings of the many people who died in the area, looking for valuables to resell.

Thalsevana Holiday Resort in Jaffna bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Thalsevana Resort
Kankasanthurai
Jaffna

This resort run by the Army and as it says on its own website "functions under the Security Forces headquarters".

It is situated in a High Security Zone (HSZ): land confiscated by the army from local people on the grounds that its occupation is required to maintain national security. The Military is refusing to give many people back their houses and land, despite considering the area safe enough for it to try and attract tourists!

This is part of a wider problem of the army keeping agricultural land to supply its own fruit and vegetable business, and in some areas the Military actually expanded HSZs following the end of the conflict. It has also been accused of selling HSZ land to businessmen instead of returning it to the original owners

Wadduwa Holiday Resort in Colombo bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Wadduwa Holiday Resort

"Laya Beach"
Colombo

This is also run by the Military, and is part of the wider militarisation of Sri Lankan society, with the armed forced taking over civilian roles and businesses.

Stays at this army resort are ;included in packages offered by Booking.com and Karma Sri Lanka.

Nature Park Holiday Resort Chundikulam Jaffna bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in sri lanka

Nature Park Holiday Resort Chundikulam
Jaffna

This army run resort is in Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary, another stretch of land to which civilians are refused access by the Military.

Trips to this army run venture are included in packages by Sha Lanka Tours .

Marble Beach Air Force Resort Trincomalee Bay bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Marble Beach Air Force Resort
Trincomalee Bay

After the conflict ended, people were initially allowed to return to this stunning beach, which was made a military detachment in 2001. The land remains under Air Force control, however and the opening of this military-run resort means the public will be "restricted to a far corner, so that the privacy of guests will not be hindered".

bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka The "Laya" group

The Military have rebranded many of the hotels they own into the "Laya" group. We've previously mentioned the Wadduwa Resort, now rebranded as ‘Laya Beach’. In addition they run the Kukuleganga Holiday Resort in Bulathsinhala (between Colombo and Kandy) which will now be known as "Laya Leisure" and they are currently building a resort in Palatupana by Yala National Park, ;which will be known as "Laya Safari".

The military have just opened two more resorts in Mailady, Kankasanthurai (near Jaffna), and they are planning to build jet another tourist hotel in Colombo. As well as the civil liberties and human rights issues regarding the Military, there is also concern that the military is not adhering to planning or environmental regulations.

Dutch Bay Resorts in Kalpitiya bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Dutch Bay Resorts
Kalpitiya

The Government of Sri Lanka has had a major part in the Dutch Bay tourist development in which large tracts of land have been acquired without proper consultation with local residents. The erection of high-barbed wire fences around these coastal areas by the navy has had a huge impact on local residents, whose livelihoods depend on access to the surrounding fishing waters. Many fishermen now have to walk several miles to access beaches only a few hundred meters away.

Government Resorts bad for ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka
Other Government run hotels and attractions

The Government of Sri Lanka also run a number of other hotels and attractions including: Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Laksala arts and crafts shop (Kandy and Colombo), Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) buses, various hostels run by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, various attractions run by the Central Cultural Fund, and the Matale Rest House. The Government also charge for entry to the Pigeon Island National Park.

New Resorts in the North and East

The Government selling confiscated land to hotels instead of returning it to local people is a potential problem for many new resorts currently being built in the North and East, especially in former LTTE territory where families' land registry records were destroyed. Plans currently include resorts in Jaffna and surrounding Islands such as Pa'n'nai, Nedun-theevu, Chi'ruth-theevu, Ma'ndai-theevu and Delft Island.

Developments often seem to involve the destruction of precious jungle or the use of land expropriated from local people, not only as a result of the civil conflict. Following the 2004 Tsunami there were fears of a land grab from homeless victims: these have been realised with reports of similar developments in which local fishing communities forced off land deemed unsafe for habitation, only for this prime seafront to be sold off to hotel developers.

RESTAURANTS & FOOD STANDS
Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Catering Services bad for ethical tourism when on holiday in Sri Lanka
Rakna Arakshaka Lanka
Catering Services

This commercial catering service is run by the Army. Not only do they provide a source financial support for the military, but they also pose direct (and unfair) competition for local traders.

Army Eateries
especially A9 Highway

The Military also run small restaurants and kiosks along the main highway through the former war-zone, and operates a lucrative vegetable business supplied by farms on land confiscated from civilians under the guise of national security. Of course not all eateries on the A9 are run by the army. Indeed many are run by local families and make a great ethical alternative to hotel food. But eateries at army checkpoints, or staffed by people in uniform, should be avoided.

SIGHTS & ATTRACTIONS
Hambantota

As the home village of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Hambantota has received heavily preferential treatment for development projects. This fact may explain why billions has been spent building a massive port (despite Hambantota having no suitable natural harbour), an international airport and several new international sports venues (despite Hambantota's unsuitable location). If you are travelling to Hambantota you should remain wary of those sights and attractions with links to the military or the regime, such as the the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium.

Buddhist Stupas

There are many impressive historic stupas in Sri Lanka. However the state is also building new ones, often in politically sensitive areas, in ways seen by many as imposing a Buddhist cultural hegemony on Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities. In Batticaloa the Military has seized land (considered sacred by many Tamils) to allow the construction of a Buddhist stupa designed to attract tourists.

Mullaitivu Wildife Sanctuary

The Military is establishing a wildlife sanctuary in Mullaitivu, an area in the Northern region that saw much of the heavy fighting during the closing stages of the conflict. While the Government intends to limit attractions to a small number of high-spending tourists, critics argue that the arrangement is another way of preventing local ethnic minority communities from returning to their homes in the area. Perhaps more significantly, the project can also be seen as a further obstacle to international investigation of an area suspected of harbouring mass graves and other evidence of war-crimes.

Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary

This is another stretch of land the Military have maintained control over and used for a commercial tourist venture.

Delft/Neduntivu island

The President's brother Basil Rajapaksa is looking to turn the island into an Eco tourism resort. However this is highly controversial as much of the land has been occupied by the military under the guise of establishing High Security Zones.

There is a heavy presence from the Sri Lankan Navy on the Island and they have been involved in altercations with Indian fishermen over rights to the sea. We have received unconfirmed reports that local fishermen have also been displaced to make more room for the Navy.

Jaffna Fort bad for ethical tourism when on holiday in Sri Lanka
Jaffna Fort

The Dutch government is funding restoration work plans include a Presidential residence for Mahinda Rajapaksa. This raises two concerns: first that the President is directly benefitting from the restoration, and secondly that, by having a presidential residence in a building long associated with colonial impression, the idea that the Rajapaksas are taking a colonialist attitude to Tamil areas in the north is reinforced.

Pedalos
Beira Lake, Colombo

The hire of pedal boats on Beira lake is managed by the Army, and is another example of the armed forced taking over civilian roles and businesses.

Jaffna Fort bad for ethical tourism when on holiday in Sri LankaWhale Watching and ferries

The Navy runs whale watching excursions in Mannar, and in Mirissa on the South Coast, in competition with other local providers. They also run most of the ferry services around Jaffna.

Eagles Golf Links in China Bay bad for ethical tourism when on holiday in Sri Lanka
Eagles' Golf Links
China Bay

This is owned and operated by the Air Force.

Cricket attractions and ethical tourism when on holiday in Sri Lanka
Cricket

The Military now control some of the most prestigious international cricket grounds in Sri Lanka: the R Premadasa Stadium (Colombo) under the Airforce, the Pallekele Stadium (near Kandy) under the Navy and the new Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium (Hambantota) under the Army. The events staged here are also being given a political dimension: one of the main sponsors of the 2012 World Twenty20 recently told journalists he was confident that events such as this would help calls for war crimes investigation to "fade away".

*Experience Travel are listed twice on this site. Here we talk about the fact they are listed as Tourism Concern’s Ethical tour operators group, and here we talk about how they use businesses with which we have concern. This is because both these things are true. On the one hand Experience Travel have worked hard to provide ethical and sustainable holidays, and Tourism Concern’s award recognises that, on the other hand some of their packages use Sri Lankan Airlines – who are linked with perpetrators of the worst kind of war crimes.
** Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is available here. Reported incidents of violence against tourists are exceptionally rare, but there has been one incredibly severe and disressing episode.

See anything missing?

Please contact us here to volunteer any information not present on this page.

What you see...
Beach in Sri Lanka. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

...what you don't see
Refugee camp during the civil war. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

What you see...
Elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

...what you don't see
Alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

What you see...
Tuk Tuk Rickshaw Bajaj at a holiday resort. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

...what you don't see
Evidence of alleged torture committed by Sri Lankan police. Consider ethical tourism when booking a holiday in Sri Lanka.

Further evidence

Credible evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights abuses are well documented by international agencies These include:

This resulted in censure of the Sri Lankan Regime by the United Nations' Human Rights Council in 2012.

For background information on the conflict see our FAQs page.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office**: "Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively infrequent, although there have been an "increasing number of reports of sexual offences including on minors"

A British national was killed during a violent attack by a gang in a tourist resort in December 2011. These incidents reflect the dangers facing ordinary Sri Lankans every day in a culture of impunity where many in power consider themselves above the law.