Has New Zealand Imposed Travel Advisory Against Visiting Sri Lanka? Find out the Facts…

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The Daily Mirror newspaper reported a few days ago that New Zealand updated its travel advisory status against visiting Sri Lanka and requested that New Zealand nationals exercise “increased caution” in the island nation of Sri Lanka if they wish to travel to Sri Lanka.

However, Factcrescendo Team found this to be misleading.

What Daily Mirror Said

Below is the extract from the news report by Daily Mirror.

New Zealand updates travel advisory against visiting SL

New Zealand updated this week its travel advisory for its citizens who are looking to visit Sri Lanka, directing them to exercise increased caution. 

Updating its advisory on February 1, the country placed Sri Lanka in level two of four. It pointed out that New Zealanders should exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to the impacts of the economic crisis, the potential for civil unrest, and risk of terrorism. 

“We advise New Zealanders in Sri Lanka to avoid protests, demonstrations, political rallies and events, large crowds, and queues. Comply with any instructions issued by the local authorities, including any curfews. 

Monitor local and international media, review personal security plans, and be aware of your surroundings,” the New Zealand government said in its update. 

While it didn’t directly state the reason for the sudden issuing of a tightened advisory, it is likely Sri Lanka was placed in a higher risk category for travel due to the protest expected on the 75th Independence Day celebration.  Several sections of the Sri Lankan community, including political parties, shared they would host black flags to protest the planned Independence Day celebrations.

Daily Mirror | Archived 

What We Found…

We checked the news reports of any other mainstream media in New Zealand or Sri Lanka about a decision from New Zealand High Commission in Colombo to update their travel advisory on Sri Lanka to warn New Zealanders against traveling to Sri Lanka. However, we couldn’t find any particular reports highlighting such a concern.

Hence we contacted the New Zealand High Commissioner’s Office in Colombo, which stated the report was misleading and directed to the social media posts by the NZ high commissioner.

In a Tweet, New Zealand High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Michael Appleton, said the report is inaccurate. He adds that “The Daily Mirror report also erroneously claims that our travel advice for Sri Lanka has recently been “tightened” (the advice level has remained the same for months) and that changes to the language in the travel advice were related to Independence Day (they were not).

The entire Tweet thread by NZ High Commissioner can be found here


The complete statement issued by NZ High Commission in Sri Lanka is below.


What are the different Travel Advisory Status recognized by the Government of NZ?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has announced four levels of travel advisories for New Zealanders traveling to any country, as listed below.

  • Exercise everyday safety and security precautions (previously “no significant security risk”)
  • Exercise increased caution (previously “some risk”)
  • Avoid non-essential travel (once “high risk”)
  • Do not travel (previously “extreme risk”)

The official travel advisory site of the New Zealand government can be reached here

On the New Zealand Government website’s travel advice, Sri Lanka is placed at level 2 of 4, at the “exercise increased caution” level, and has the following warnings related to Sri Lanka.

Exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to the impacts of the economic crisis, the potential for civil unrest, and the risk of terrorism (level 2 of 4)“, as seen below.

However, along with Sri Lanka, the NZ government categorizes many countries into this “exercise increased caution” travel advisory category and includes countries like the US, UK, France, Germany, China, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, etc. A full list of countries can be seen here.

In fact, at the time of accessing the NZ government’s website on February 15, the first category of Exercise normal safety and security precautions (previously “no significant security risk”) did not include any of the countries as seen here.

So, it’s clear that “Exercise Increased Caution” is a general travel advisory level the Government of NZ applies to many counties in the world, except for the ones listed under Avoid non-essential travel (once “high risk”) & Do not travel (previously “extreme risk”). And it’s clear that this travel advisory status does NOT relate to any advisory against visiting a particular country.

How has the NZ government changed Sri Lanka’s Travel Advisory status in the past?

After the rebellious situation of the country on July 9, 2022, which led to then-President Gothabaya fleeing from the country, the New Zealand government imposed an “avoid non-essential travels” advisory to Sri Lanka. The archived advisory can be found here.

However, after the appointment of the new president Wickremesinghe, there has been some stability in the country, so the NZ government had changed the advisory from “avoid non-essential travels” to “Exercise increased caution” in September 2022. The archived advisory can be read here.

On September 1, 2022, New Zealand High Commission, Colombo, announced that the New Zealand government lowered its travel advisory risk for Sri Lanka, as seen below.

In September 2022, New Zealand Herald also reported that it was the perfect time to visit Sri Lanka. Web articles can be read here. Archived.

We checked in internet archives to check whether there had been any change in the New Zealand government’s travel advisory levels for Sri Lanka since then. The investigation proved that there had not been any change in the advisory level of “Exercise Increased Caution” since it was assigned to Sri Lanka on September 1, 2022.

Although the advisory level had remained the same, the description of the country’s situation was different in the previous assignment, which stated, “due to the impacts of the economic crisis and the potential for civil unrest (level 2 of 4)“. The most recent description stated as “Exercise Increased Caution due to the impacts of the economic crisis, the potential for civil unrest, and the risk of terrorism (level 2 of 4)“, The archived advisory version can be reached here.

Therefore it’s clear that only the description of the advisory level related to “Exercise Increased Caution” has been changed, and the advisory level has remained unchanged for over five months, since 1st September 2022, contrary to the misleading reports stating that New Zealand Government had issued a tightened travel advisory against visiting Sri Lanka in February 2023.

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Title:Has New Zealand Imposed Travel Advisory Against Visiting Sri Lanka? Find out the Facts…

By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Explainer

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