Following the deportation of a British national by Sri Lanka immigration authorities for having a tattoo of Buddha on his arm, the British Diplomat says countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives which depends on income from tourism need to be prepared to expect visitors with very different perspectives and values.
The tourist has said that he, himself was a Buddhist, and the tattoo was not meant to be offensive. Rather it was intended as a tribute to his Buddhist beliefs, he has said.
Bulloch says the deportation of the ‘man with a Buddha tattoo’ is a good example of how tourism can result in cultural misunderstandings.
He points out that glossy marketing and the relative ease of global transport can mask the fact that tourist destinations often have very different customs to those found in liberal western cities.
The envoy notes that in Sri Lanka, while many see the economic opportunities offered by increasing visitor numbers, there are also concerns amongst some local people that traditional livelihoods and cultures are coming under threat.
Sri Lankan authorities have said that the safety of the tourist was a concern for them to deny the visa.
The envoy says that “if so, it tells a sad story about the growing levels of religious anxiety in a country usually famed for its hospitality towards visitors.”