In the backdrop of 2014 registering 15.1 million guest nights with tourism receipts recording $2.2 billion, the informal sector is recording a staggering 7.3 million guest nights, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala.
Athukoralanoted that this figure is almost touching the 50% mark as per the analysis done by JB Securities.
He asserted that it would growfurthergiven the explosion of online booking companies and more travellers wanting to book online, addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Guides Association of Sri Lanka as Chief Guest.
“Given the strong growth seen in the informal sector, the free independent travellers segment will constitute a large segment of tourism that will need professional guides for special products on the Sri Lankan tourism mix,” asserted Athukorala, “be it the 350-500 pod of whales seen off the seas of Kalpitiya by whale watching experts like Andrew Statton in March 2015 or the architectural masterpiece of urban planning seen thousands of years ago by way of the Sigiriya Fortress.”
“We need a private sector model that can attract a minimum of a billion dollars given that many other global attractions fetch 10 to 15 billion dollars. We must integrate the tourist arrivals to the overall economic impact if we are to do justice to the growing numbers in the tourism industry,” he said.
Overall tourism numbers are registering 14.5% growth in the first five months of 2015, with overall tourism receipts crossing $1billion dollars as per the Central Bank whilst the BOI confirmed that leisure approvals as at end May was Rs. 4.1 billion.
JB Securities insights into the informal sector at almost 50% explains the consumption patterns of tourists that the formal sector will have to address, said Athukorala. “When Sri Lanka gets in place a global communication partnerin two months, we must then focus on quality tourism rather than just numbers.”