I was telephoning a few hotels in Embilipitiya, trying to find accommodation for staff on a site visit. I called a place that looked nice, had a decent review and was cheap.
The conversation was in Sinhalese and the fellow who answered the phone first wanted to know where I was calling from. I answered: Colombo. He then asked: local or foreign? Local, I replied.
He was a bit apologetic saying that they did not cater to locals. He explained that there had been problems with noisy groups resulting in complaints from other guests so that they had now stopped accepting bookings from locals.
I heard the same story from the owner of another small hotel a few years back. Again, we were conversing in Sinhalese and he said that the foreigners and Sri Lankan's had different ways of "enjoying" - he used the English word.
The locals, he said, wanted big noisy parties with lots of alcohol. This did not generally go down well with the foreigners so he had stopped catering to locals.
The question is: Is this discrimination? Certainly, but is it racism?
I myself abhor the large groups (referred to as 'Homeboys' or Yakko's) and quite understand the problem. Boisterous, noisy and generally drunk they are a nuisance to all around.
The problem is that the hotels are reacting by refusing all local custom. I think this is a racism of sorts, although rooted in something more complex than ordinary racism.
If the hotels had some finesse, what they should do is refine their polices to exclude large groups, which is the source of the problem. Small groups, especially families are generally quiet and will cause no disturbance to other guests. This is sometimes easier said than done, sometimes even a group of 10 may be noisy enough to annoy other guests. Clearly defined rules, stated in the booking and by way of signs may also help enforce some reasonable standard of behaviour.