Tourism kicks off 2024 with a high $ 342 m earnings

Monday, 12 February 2024 04:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • January earnings up 123% YoY and 27% from December 2023
  • Marks highest revenue and visitor influx since 2019
  • Tourism Minister Harin Fernando eyes landmark year for sector in 2024
  • First eight days of February welcome 60,122 visitors, pushing YTD figure to 268,375
  • Daily average arrivals soar to 7,515 from 6,718 in January

By Charumini de Silva

The tourism industry is off to a strong start in 2024 as earnings exceed $ 340 million in tandem with the boost in arrivals.

Tourism earnings in January were at $ 341.8 million, reflecting a 122.7% increase from the corresponding period of last year, as per the latest Central Bank data released.

Even in a month-on-month comparison, January earnings are 27% higher than December 2023.

It is the highest earnings registered in January since the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019.

“Our goal is to build upon the resilience and transform it into a thriving industry by the end of this year. I am confident the arrivals and earnings this year are going to be remarkable,” Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told the Daily FT.

Tourism remains an important source of net foreign currency earnings for the country, as the foreign currency outflows on account of inputs are minimal. 

According to the Central Bank data, between 2014 and 2019, tourism contributed to about 14% of total foreign currency earnings during this period. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka lost around $ 15 billion amidst multiple challenges during the past four years from tourism sector earnings. 

The Minister expressed optimism about early indications of a significant performance, whilst asserting that it was imperative to maintain the current momentum to achieve the set targets by the year end.

“Our effort is to springboard from resilience to make 2024 one of the most successful years in Sri Lanka’s tourism history,” Fernando added. 

After absorbing the brunt of several Covid19 waves in 2020 and 2021, followed by the crisis-ridden 2022 with adverse global publicity of political instability and economic crux, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry proved its resilience and made a strong comeback in 2023.

Sri Lanka Tourism is poised to achieve the ambitious 2.3 million visitors and over $ 4 billion in income by year-end. 

With anticipation running high for a remarkable winter season, in the first eight days of February, Sri Lanka welcomed 60,122 tourists, with 52,361 arriving in the first week alone. The surge in arrivals has also propelled the year-to-date (YTD) figure to 268,375 raising the confidence of the industry stakeholders.

The surge in tourist influx is accompanied by the daily arrival average reaching a new milestone, from 6,718 in January to 7,515 in February so far.

Russia (8,755), India (8,369) and UK (5,613) emerged as the top source markets in February so far. 

India maintains its position as the top tourist source market for Sri Lanka YTD with a cumulative total of 42,768 arrivals, followed by Russia with 39,914, UK with 22,278, Germany with 18,016 and China with 15,778 arrivals.

Industry analysts view this upward trend as a welcome development for a sector that has navigated manifold crises over the past few years. 

“Despite setbacks, Sri Lanka Tourism is now cautiously optimistic and actively working to stimulate the sector, aiming to reclaim pre-crisis levels of activity in the coming years,” they stated.