Tourist arrivals cross half-a-million mark

Tuesday, 23 May 2023 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Tourism Minister expresses confidence to achieve ambitious targets of 2 m arrivals, $ 3 b income
  •  Says industry must bring its ‘A Game’, as 75% more of set target should be achieved in next 7 months
  •  Russia remains strong as top source market YTD with arrivals surpassing 100,000 
  •  First 21 days of May draw 57,142 visitors

By Charumini de Silva

Tourism Minister Harin Fernando confirmed that arrivals to Sri Lanka have exceeded the half-a-million mark, with over 2,000 visitors that were welcomed in the country yesterday.

“Sri Lanka could achieve the set target of two million tourists, whilst earning over $ 3 billion by year-end,” he told the Daily FT, recalling that the country could only surpass the 500,000 mark in September last year.

With Sri Lanka Tourism surpassing the half-a-million mark, the industry has only 30% to catch up to reach the 719,978 achieved in 2022. However, to reach the ambitious target of two million arrivals by the end of 2023, the industry will need to crank out its best performance, as another 75% must be achieved in the next seven months.

The Minister is currently in China conducting the second roadshow in multiple cities including Kunming, Beijing and Shanghai.

“It is evident that the industry has rebounded strongly this year in terms of numbers and earnings. The industry should be lauded for the positive impact it made during a short timeline. Though the numbers have slowed down from the first quarter, efforts and initiatives are underway to draw as much as tourists during the shoulder period,” Fernando added.

During the first 21 days of the month, 57,142 visitors have arrived in the country, with 18,847 or 25% of arrivals required to achieve the monthly target of 75,989.

It is noteworthy that Russia also has surpassed 100,000 arrivals so far and remains strong as the top tourist source market for Sri Lanka YTD with 20%.

India, the UK, Germany and France remain the second, third, fourth and fifth top markets that generated tourist arrivals during the year thus far, respectively.

India remains the top tourist inflow for the month reflecting 26% or 15,052, followed by Germany with 5,318, Russia with 5,273, UK with 3,812 and Australia with 3,039. In addition, travellers from China, Canada, the US, France and the Maldives were welcomed in Sri Lanka.

Earnings from the tourism industry were nearly $ 700 million in the first four months of 2023, in tandem with over 100,000 visitors Sri Lanka welcomed from January to April.

Tourism earnings in the first four months of 2023 were at $ 696.3 million, reflecting a 17.8% increase from the corresponding period of last year, whilst April earnings stood at $ 166.5 million, the Central Bank data showed.

Despite the multiple challenges faced, the tourism industry remains optimistic as they ramp up efforts to achieve the set targets to overcome the economic woes.

“We are trying to attract all four Chinese airlines to Sri Lanka that operated before the pandemic. SriLankan Airlines and China Eastern have already begun service to Colombo, whilst Air China has committed to operating three flights a week to Sri Lanka from July. We hope these efforts will help to boost seat capacity from China in the coming months,” Fernando said.

The Minister also emphasised the combined effect of pent-up demand, ease of travel restrictions and regular direct flights; will be favourable conditions for Sri Lanka to draw Chinese visitors during the off-peak season.

“China is projected to drive economic growth in Asia and the Pacific this year. Thus, if we can draw a significant number of tourists from there, it will have a major impact on our tourism earnings this year,” he added.