An influx of Chinese nationals, arriving in the country to work illegally in the tourism industry, particularly as tourist guides, is pushing locals out of their jobs, The Nation learns.

Sri Lankan Chinese speaking tourist guides claim the influx had seen Chinese nationals setting up unregistered travel companies that are not paying taxes. These persons, in turn, employ other Chinese nationals as tourist guides and even as driver guides for their vehicle fleets. They have now expanded to even operating gem and jewelry shops as well as maintaining guest houses, according to reports.

The situation is compounded by local travel agents, who have taken to assigning Chinese nationals in Sri Lanka as tourist guides for cheaper remuneration, violating the country’s immigration laws, local Chinese speaking guides claimed.

“Chinese Language guiding was earlier done by Sri Lankans who have studied in China or were Chinese language graduates from Kelaniya and Sabaragamuwa Universities. But now some have lost their jobs as travel companies recruit Chinese individuals,” said a Sri Lankan Chinese speaking tourist guide.

He further pointed out that as these people are not properly trained and not educated about the culture and history of Sri Lanka, they are liable to provide false information about the country.

“We have written to the President, the Minister of Tourism and Sri Lanka Tourism, among others, detailing this problem. However, we are yet to receive any response.”
He further said they had taken the matter to the Department of Immigration and Emigration as well.

When contacted, Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, MN Ranasinghe said his department could not do much unless there were complaints lodged with specific information about Chinese nationals who were violating visa regulations. “Otherwise, there’s not much we can do. We can’t simply go about detaining Chinese nationals on suspicion,” he pointed out.

The Nation also contacted Sri Lanka Tourism for a response. An official confirmed they had received a letter of complaint on the matter, but was unable to say whether any action had been taken. “However, we are likely to have a meeting soon to discuss this issue,” the official said.