After three years of pandemic travel restrictions, manmade economic crisis and skyrocketing energy costs, tourism is back with a vigor to boost Sri Lanka forex reserves as sun-seekers make up for lost time.
Early bookings suggest the island nation could receive record tourism revenues this year, helping replenish state coffers depleted by rising debt interest payments and the cost of living crisis.
What’s more, there appears to be growing demand for the luxury end of the spectrum. But Normalising Sri Lanka is likely to fail to keep the momentum of pre-crisis visitor arrivals in May.
However, year-on-year is likely to finish better, but considering the pre-pandemic, the industry is underperforming, yourim ministry sources said.
The industry however said the low arrivals in the months of May and June are not a new phenomenon and even during pre-COVID times this has been the same trend for tourist arrivals.
However, it is noteworthy that the numbers have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and have not received visitors from the two countries that Sri Lanka Tourism has conducted multiple road shows in the post-pandemic years, severl senior officials at the ministry predicted.
Sri Lanka has welcomed over 36,000 tourists during the first two weeks of the month, boosting the momentum to reach the monthly target of 75,989 arrivals.
The country received 36,100 tourists during the first 14 days of the month, comprising 18,401 during the first week and 17,699 in the second week – recording the lowest arrivals in 2023 so far.
The first two weeks’ arrivals have also pushed the cumulative figure to date to 477,277, propelling the impetus to continue in the year 2023.
After regaining its place as the top source market last month, India continues to grow reflecting 26% or 9,323, followed by Russia with 10% or 3,686, the United Kingdom with 7% or 2,523, Germany with 6% or 2,179 and Australia with 5% or 2,075.
In addition, tourists were also received from China, Canada, the US, France and the Maldives, the provisional data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority showed.
Russia remains strong as the top tourist source market for Sri Lanka YTD with a cumulative number of arrivals at 98,233 or 21% followed by India with 75,670 or 16%, the UK with 39,377 or 8% Germany with 35,432 or 7% and France with 23,473 or 5%.
During the shoulder season, Sri Lanka Tourism is stepping up its efforts to draw more Chinese and Indian travellers.
A team led by Tourism Minister Harin Fernando along with Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Chalaka Gajabahu will participate at the Guangzhou International Travel Fair (GITF), and conduct a roadshow in multiple cities including Kunming, Beijing and Shanghai this week.
Tourism earnings in the first four months of 2023 were at $ 696.3 million, reflecting a 17.8% increase from the corresponding period of last year, whilst April earnings stood at $ 166.5 million, the latest Central Bank data released showed.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry accounts for close to 5% of its economy. The industry is hopeful of achieving its upwardly revised target of two million visitors and an income of over $ 3 billion in 2023.