By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is on the rise, with the island nation welcoming a growing number of visitors from around the world.
India is playing an important role in this trend, with increasing numbers of Indian tourists exploring Sri Lanka’s diverse landscapes, cultures, and heritage sites.
Experts attribute this growth to the improving relations between India and Sri Lanka, as well as the increasing availability of direct flights between the two countries.
Alliance Air announced the launch of new direct flights between Chennai and Jaffna in December last year, further boosting the connectivity between the two nations.
Similarly, Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, started direct flights between Colombo and Mumbai from March this yea
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is experiencing a surge of optimism as the country welcomed over 50,000 tourists in the first 15 days of October.
This strong start to the month has set a positive tone for the ambitious monthly target of 147,789 arrivals.
From 1 to 15 October, Sri Lanka saw an impressive total of 50,395 tourists arriving, pushing the cumulative figure for the year to over 1.06 million mark, an encouraging rebound from the challenges of 2022.
India stands out as the leading source market, contributing 24% of the total arrivals during this period, amounting to 12,261 visitors.
Russia follows with 4,554 arrivals, trailed closely by the UK at 4,008. China and Germany round out the top five with 3,269 and 3,180 arrivals respectively.
Additionally, visitors from Australia, the Maldives, the US, the Netherlands and Spain have also contributed to the burgeoning numbers.
The influx of Indian travellers reaffirms its position as the primary source market for Sri Lanka, with a cumulative arrival count of 212,571 year-to-date. Russia follows with 136,854 arrivals, followed by the UK with 94,851, Germany with 72,093, and China with 50,900.
Analysts suggest that the joint Cabinet proposal to extend free visas to countries including India, Russia, China, Thailand, and Indonesia will further fuel the growth in arrivals in the coming months.
This forward-thinking measure aligns seamlessly with Sri Lanka’s overarching strategy to revive the tourism sector, which has grappled with multiple challenges in recent times, since 2019.
By waiving tourist visa fees, the Government anticipates a surge in visitor numbers, projecting positive impacts on economic growth and employment opportunities within the tourism industry.
However, some industry stakeholders express disappointment with the Government’s response to concerns raised about the minimum room rates (MRR) ahead of the peak season and its potential impact. This issue remains a point of contention within the sector.
The industry remains hopeful about achieving its revised target of hosting 1.55 million visitors and generating over $ 3 billion in income for the year 2023.