By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry has crossed a major milestone with tourist arrivals crossing the half a million mark this month.
Industry sources said that by end October there had been 497,598 tourist arrivals officially recorded and in the first weeks of November, the remaining 2,402 tourists to surpass the half a million mark had been achieved.
Provisional data for November is expected to be released shortly which will confirm the surpassing of the 500,000 mark. As per end October performance, tourist arrivals were up 43.5%.
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told the Daily FT that even though an exact figure cannot be given, he was confident that by end of 2010 the country will record a significantly higher figure.
“Since we have experienced 50,000 arrivals per month for the last few months it could be expected that the original target to be broken with the arrivals in the month of November. It is also highly probable that the country could achieve 590,000 to 600,000 tourists by the end of the year,” Godahewa said.
President of City Hoteliers Association M. Shanthikumar also asserted that achieving 600,000 wasn’t an impossible task given the increasing numbers and the market confidence expressed by the people.
He stated that the hotels are experiencing a 20 per cent increase in occupancy compared to last year and that in December the arrivals would be more than 50,000 given the pre bookings etc. the hotels have received so far. “A large number of expatriates are set to come down in December since the political and economical background is now stable in the country. We are expecting the month of December to lure in a more tourists than ever before. Inflow will be much greater,” Shanthikumar added.
Earnings from tourism in the first 10 months of 2010 were up 62% to $ 438 million.