As recent tourism statistics have shown signs of optimism, Sri Lanka is well on track to attract a record 2.5 million tourists by the end of this year supported by planned promotion campaigns set to be rolled out to lure visitors during off-season, authoritative sources said last week.
According to official data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) recently, Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals during the first seven months of 2018 has registered a healthy growth of 13.7% reaching 1.382 million tourists compared to the corresponding seven month period of 2017. On the other hand, the island’s cumulative earnings from tourism for the first five months of 2018, has grown by a sharper 15% from US$ 1.645 billion to US$ 1.88 billion, data released by the Central Bank showed.
“Although the growth in the month of July was a little lower to what we have seen in the earlier months, going by the average growth recorded so far, we can be confident of reaching the 2.5 million target in our way forward,” Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), Sutheash Balasubramanium told the Sunday Observer.
While tourist arrivals in the months of May and July this year has risen in single digits by 6 percent and in January by 9%, growth in tourist arrivals during the rest of the four months of this year, have however increased significantly compared to the corrosponding months in 2017, data showed. Accordingly, arrivals in February grew by 20%, March by 24%, June by 19% and April by 12.6%.
“Europe continued to be the largest source of tourist traffic to Sri Lanka with 44% of the total traffic received in July 2018. Asia and the Pacific accounted for 42% of the total traffic, Middle East 7%, America 6% and Africa 0.5%,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said at the release of the latest statistics.
According to the Authority, India, China, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France were Sri Lanka’s top five international tourist generating markets in the month of July this year. India was the largest source of tourist traffic to Sri Lanka with 14% of the total traffic received in July 2018 and cumulative arrivals from January to July 2018 being 237, 369. China accounted for 13% of the total traffic, while the United Kingdom, Netherlands and France accounted for 12%, 6% and 5% respectively. Around 163,754 Chinese tourists have arrived in Sri Lanka from January to July this year, making China the second largest market for Sri Lanka tourism.
“We are hopeful of a stronger year given, we still have some promotional campaigns lined up to entice visitors during the forthcoming low-season between September and November. The Mastercard campaign which finished in July will be resumed and hopefully we will be able to launch the digital marketing campaign targeting European countries by the latter part of the year,” Balasubramaniam noted.
In May this year, the SLTPB announced a partnership with Mastercard to encourage cross border tourism between India and Sri Lanka. The campaign offers opportunities for Indian travellers to avail of the convenience of cashless payments and attractive discounts on dining, shopping and staying in Sri Lanka.
“Apart from this, the Global Media CNN campaign to depict Sri Lanka’s identity to the world as a tourism hot spot is also currently in progress,” the Managing Director of SLTPB pointed out.
Visa exemption to entice short-haul tourists
Meanwhile,Minister of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs last week said the government is studying the possibilities of granting visa free entry to visitors from countries such as India and China. He said, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a task force to study the possibility of granting visa-free entry to visitors from certain tourist-friendly nations to boost arrivals.
“India and China along with some other European and West Asian nations can benefit from it. Following recommendations from the task force, this proposal may be implemented in the off season months of October to November and March to April,” Minister Amarathunga said.
At present, all tourists to Sri Lanka must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before their arrival. On the basis of reciprocity, citizens of Singapore, the Maldives and the Seychelles are exempt from the ETA and can obtain a visa on arrival, free of charge.
“As we promote ourselves as a 365 day destination, it is important to intensify our short hauls by encouraging visitors from neighboring countries during the lean seasons. This strategy is also adopted by many other successful tourism destinations and hence, the Ministry is contemplating on this,” Managing Director, Balasubramanium opined.
Last month, Lonely Planet, one of world’s largest travel guide book publisher, featured Sri Lanka’s Arugam Bay among the Best in Asia list for 2018. Lonely Planet’s in-house Asia experts named “eclectic” and “vibrant” Busan, South Korea, as the number one destination, while Arugam Bay located in the East coast of Sri Lanka, came in at number 8.
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