By Cheranka Mendis
Encouraged by faster growth Sri Lanka Tourism has revised its tourist arrival forecast for 2011 to 800,000 from the previous estimate of 700-750,000.
“Our original anticipation at the beginning of the year was 700,000. However it is now evident that surpassing the initial expectation and going for an 800,000 is a highly possible task given that the current trend continues over the next few months of the year,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told the Daily FT.
Last week Sri Lanka welcomed the 250,000th tourist for the year, a historical milestone for the country as it was the first time Sri Lanka was able to get such a number within the first four months of the year. The closest in number was seen in 2006 where the first quarter arrival figure was recorded as 209, 312. In 2010, also a record breaking year in expectations, the first four months saw 198, 709 tourists while in 2009 the number was only 102, 056.
Backed by such hype and good news, Sri Lanka Tourism could very well reach the 800,000 mark before the end of the year, if the present trend continues.
In January and March arrival growth was listed as 46.2 per cent and 43.5 per cent respectively. Arrival figures too are likely to cross the 40 per cent mark, Godahewa asserted. “February was the only downer so far with 14.8 per cent. But we are confident that within the next few months the growth rate will remain within 30-40 per cent.” With increasing arrivals anticipated the industry hopes to see a 45 per cent average monthly growth by the end of the year.
Godahewa said his only concern was accommodation; if mini hotels close down for refurbishment at the latter part of the year. “This would limit the arrivals however the trend is that tourism picks up in the latter part of the year so we hope that the numbers will balance out to take us to the new target.”
Targeted average growth of arrivals for the year is 30 per cent, Godahewa said.
Meanwhile President of Colombo City Tourist Hotels Association M. Shanthikumar claimed that refurbishment work will not affect the flow of tourists coming into the country. Also another 400 to 500 rooms are said to be in the pipeline in 2011 even though the completion within the year cannot be guaranteed, Shanthikumar said.
The room capacity is expected to rise to 15,000 within 2011 while the room capacity for 2010 was 14, 932. “Tourism industry is looking very positive at the moment and will continue to be so within the next few unfolding months. We strongly believe that the country would be able to secure a tourist base of 750,000 to 800,000 within the year,” Shanthikumar assured.