- Targets 950,000 arrivals in 2012
- Over 100 new hotels to be set up and 100,000 jobs
- More marketing to raise country profile in the works
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka is continuing its ambitious tourism plans for 2012 by targeting 950,000 arrivals, 100,000 new jobs and over 100 hotels, a Minister said yesterday.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana told media that the Government was confident of hitting the target after it posted strong growth this year with 758,000 tourists coming to the country as of November.
“We are confident that we can pass the 800,000 mark by the end of this month. We are very positive about the benefits of tourism for Sri Lanka. We have created 12,000 new jobs in the industry so far and expect to bring the number of direct employees from 89,000 to 180,000 by end of 2012,” he said.
Expectations are rife that 100,000 tourists will come to Sri Lanka this month up from 90,000 in November. Starting from January, which posted a 46% increase over the previous year, the statistics have grown to level out at a growth of 22.2% when compared with last year.
The Government has also received 189 applications from companies to begin new hotels, out of which 79 have already been given approval. The remaining 110 are being processed at the moment and Abeywardana expressed confidence over most of them commencing next year.
A Rs. 6.5 billion tourist development project in Pasekudah is expected to open by March 2012 containing 14 new hotels with a combined room capacity of 931, the Minister added.
According to him, 90% of the work is completed with only two more hotels yet to be completed.
The Minister also showed that Sri Lanka’s tourism product has expanded from the standard “sun, sea and sand” concept to include extensive travel to wildlife parts and other amusements. Statistics released by Abeywardana showed that 2.63% of all tourists had visited the Dehiwala zoo drawing an income of Rs. 20.6 million.
Pinnawela drew 35.04% of tourists earning Rs. 389.3 million and wildlife parks saw 21.9% of tourists with Rs. 227.2 million in combined sales.
Similarly in the cultural sites the Temple of the Tooth drew an impressive 44.8% of tourists with Sigiriya coming in second at 24.5%, the former earned Rs.293.7 million while Rs. 237.5 million went into the coffers of the latter.
Botanical gardens also drew in the crowds with 32.23% of tourists visiting them and earned Rs. 123 million. The only disappointment in the list was national museums, which drew only 3.37% of travellers earning a comparatively paltry Rs. 9.8 million.
“We also distributed Rs.40 million to each provincial council to work on developing tourism attraction in their areas and decentralized power so that they could act more efficiently,” Abeywardana claimed.
In addition to the employment opportunities 83 new travel agencies and 104 guides were registered in 2011 while 120 registrations were done for home stay. The number of guest houses increased by 138.
Aggressive marketing plans based on web advertising are also being drawn up by Sri Lanka Tourism with a budget of Rs. 700 million to Rs. 800 million speculated on at the moment.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Managing Director Rumy Jauffer who was also present at the media briefing stated that a recent survey conducted by them showed only 4% of people were aware of Sri Lanka internationally but that the marketing campaigns were targeted at a twelvefold increase.