By Cheranka Mendis
Tourist arrivals in March this year had been the highest ever for the month at 91,102 – reflecting a 21.3% growth over last year.
The merry March brought the total for the first quarter to 260,525, up by 21% over the corresponding period of last year. End March performance accounts for 26% of the 1 million target for 2012.
March 2012 performance is also the second all time best for a month, behind 97,517 achieved in December 2011. For three consecutive years the month of March has bettered its previous best.
As per data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority yesterday, the first quarter success was attributed to the increase in arrivals from Western Europe and South Asia which brought in 115,547 (up 23.3%) and 54,229 (3.2%) respectively.
India remains Sri Lanka’s biggest source market for tourists with arrivals amounting to 39,865 in the first quarter up by 6.4% followed by UK with 28,940 (up by 3.4%), Germany with 21,241 (up by 26%), France with 17,538 (up by 13.6%) and Australia with 9,810 (up by 11%).
In terms of percentage growth the Philippines produced 308.4% with 1,213 arrivals followed by Switzerland with a 103.4% to 6,587 tourists.
In the month of March, arrivals from India grew by only 2% to 13,908 whilst UK, saw an increase of 36% to 12,032. Other traditional Western European markets Germany and France saw March arrivals increase by 29.6% and 8.1% respectively.
Regionally, Western Europe recorded the largest number during the month 40,686, up by 35.6% in comparison to a year ago. Arrivals from South Asia were down by 7.3% to 19,514 on account of declines from the Maldives and Pakistan.
Arrivals from East Asia in March a 44.3% increase to 10,148 and 40% in the first quarter to 29,738 with leading markets being Japan, China, Malaysia and Singapore.
Middle Eastern tourist inflow grew by 24% to 11,711 in the first quarter though it was static in March whilst arrivals from Eastern Europe recorded a 47% growth in the first quarter to 22,602 and 59% jump in March to 7,882 led by a strong Russian performance. North America produced a 20.5% growth in the first quarter to 14,138 and an equal increase in March to 4,795 arrivals.
Whilst March data is pending, as per Central Bank earnings from tourism in the first two months of this year grew by 28.5% to $ 174.5 million.
Central Bank is forecasting earnings from tourism this year to be US$ 1.2 billion, up from $ 830 million last year, which was a 44% increase from 2010. Last year tourist arrivals rose by 31% to a record 855,975.