Guns outnumber guests at bombed Sri Lanka hotel as tourism takes a hit

Guns outnumber guests at bombed Sri Lanka hotel as tourism takes a hit

To get into the marble-floored lobby of the Cinnamon, visitors must pass through two security checks
To get into the marble-floored lobby of the Cinnamon, visitors must pass through two security checks as a new X-ray machine scans bags. (File photo: AFP/ISHARA S KODIKARA)

COLOMBO: At the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, one of six Sri Lankan targets hit by suicide bombers on Easter Sunday, the silence that reigns is not just the usual hush of a plush hotel.

Recently reopened, barely 10 of its 500 luxury rooms are occupied - down from the 300 usual at this time of year - as fears rise over the impact of the bombings on the island nation's burgeoning tourism industry.

Armed soldiers outnumber guests at the re-opened Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo
Armed soldiers outnumber guests at the re-opened Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo AFP/ISHARA S. KODIKARA

On Apr 21, the Cinnamon was one of three hotels hit by jihadi bombers along with three churches in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group that left 257 people dead.

Around 9.10am that day, Sri Lankan Inshaf Ibrahim, who had checked into the Cinnamon the day before, went to the breakfast buffet in the hotel's Taprobane restaurant.

Then he set off the bomb in his backpack, killing twenty people.

READ: Curfew in Sri Lanka city as religious tensions rise

READ: Sri Lanka blasts - what we know so far 

The bomber's brother Ilham Ibrahim died while attacking the Shangri-La hotel, also in Colombo.

Now, to get into the marble-floored lobby of the Cinnamon, visitors must pass through two security checks as a new X-ray machine scans bags. Armed soldiers outnumber guests.

The bar inside the hotel  was a popular drinking hole for Colombo's movers and shakers before
The bar inside the hotel was a popular drinking hole for Colombo's movers and shakers before the attacks. (File photo: AFP/ISHARA S KODIKARA)

At a bar inside that before was a popular drinking hole for Colombo's movers and shakers, Chaminda Perera, head of an agro-chemicals firm, is sipping red wine after returning for the first time.

"It feels lonely when coming inside. We know that Cinnamon Grand is one the best hotels in Colombo," he told AFP, the other seats and armchairs around him and his companion empty.

"Usually in daytime it is very difficult to get a chair."

Bart van Dijk, a Dutchman working for an e-commerce company and who lives nearby, said that before the attacks the Cinnamon was so much more than a hotel.

"In other countries, a hotel is just a place where people sleep for business or as a tourist," the 29-year-old told AFP.

"Here you have 14 restaurants, you have a laundry service, a fitness service. It's almost an entire ecosystem that you walk into."

Source: AFP/jt

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