Sri Lanka is set to receive its first group of post-pandemic Chinese tourists after becoming one of the first 20 countries to resume the organization of outbound group tourists from China since COVID-19.
Their flight will depart from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on March 3.“We are expecting Chinese tourists to come back soon, but their particular interest has been to countries closer to China,” Anura Fernando, the consul general of Sri Lanka in Shanghai, said during an interview with China Daily about the country’s eagerness to receive more tourists from China.
As soon as the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the decision to allow travel agencies to resume booking groups to travel to 20 countries and regions on Feb 6, the Sri Lanka consul general began to work closely with travel agencies and other partners to reopen direct flights between Shanghai and Colombo, its capital city.
Only a limited number of countries have been included in this list and this listing is a reflection of the close bonds between the two countries. The Embassy has consistently made representations to have Sri Lanka included in such a list.
The tourism industry of Sri Lanka which suffered a catastrophic decline following the Covid19 pandemic, now has the opportunity to recover rapidly. In 2019, 169 million Chinese nationals travelled outside the Chinese mainland. Today there is a tremendous pent up urge to travel among the Chinese and large numbers are expected to undertake vacation travel.
The Sri Lanka Embassy in Beijing is continuing its multi faceted efforts to promote Sri Lanka tourism despite the limited resources available, including during Ambassador Dr Palitha Kohona’s visits to different provinces and cities.
The electronic (TV) and the print media (including the national dailies) have been engaged on every occasion as well as the social media.
With its tropical climate, as well as rich and diverse cultural heritage, Sri Lanka has been a popular destination for holidaymakers from around the world. In 2018, the country received a record number of 280,000 tourists from China.
“Since most Chinese haven’t traveled out of the country for three years, they are looking at closer destinations,” he says, adding “but I think Sri Lanka should be attractive to most Chinese tourists”.
He notes that the rich heritage of Buddhist culture, tea plantations, gem stones, as well as its natural beauty and water activities, are all appealing for Chinese tourists. Now that the pandemic is over, and Sri Lanka has emerged from the economic crisis, Fernando hopes that “this year tourists’ numbers will increase to about 1 million”.
China is the biggest trading partner of Sri Lanka and the largest source of foreign investments. With the signing of a free trade agreement expected to be made this year, Fernando believes the trade volume will increase between the two countries.
One of the first countries involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Sri Lanka has witnessed major projects constructed by China, such as the Port City in Colombo that kicked off in 2014