- Growth a lackluster 3.2%, only 65,595 travelers more than 2016
- Drought, floods, dengue and runway repairs dampen growth
- India remains top arrival source, China dips 1% and UK up 7.3%
- December grew by 8.8% reviving hopes for a strong winter start to 2018
Despite a tough year, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka reached an all-time high of 2,116,407 in 2017 according to the latest data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), but recorded marginal growth of 3.2% after adverse weather, dengue and a partially closed airport earlier in the year hampered growth.
The arrival figure for 2017 represents a 3.2% growth or 65,595 more arrivals over the preceding year when the figure crossed the 2 million mark for the first time.
The higher number of arrivals has been achieved despite serious setbacks to the tourism industry right throughout 2017. The first setback was the partial closure of the country’s main airport from January to April resulting in many airlines either scaling down operations or completely halting flights to Colombo.
Just weeks after the airport reopened in April, the southern half of the country experienced devastating floods that cut off access to many resort areas resulting in adverse international media publicity that had an impact on forward bookings.
This was followed by an unprecedented dengue epidemic centered around the commercial capital Colombo that lasted several months, which too resulted in negative reports on international media resulting in at least one country issuing a travel advisory based on the issue.
Further flooding and a severe drought in the central and northern parts of the country in the latter part of the year added to the climatic woes suffered by the tourism industry during the year which according to industry sources impacted forward bookings.
According to SLTDA data, arrivals in December grew from 224,791 in 2016 to 244,536 in 2017 reflecting an 8.8% growth rate which augurs well for the winter season ahead.
India continued to be the top source market with 384,628 arrivals (up 7.8%) followed by China with 268,952 (down 1%) and UK 201,879 (up 7.3%).
Of the total number of arrivals 2,085,272 reached the country via BIA in Katunayake, 5,491 via MRIA in Mattala, 10,569, via Colombo Harbour, 14,099 via Galle Harbour and 976 via other ports according to statistics from the Department of Immigration and Emigration.