SL Tourism accepts challenge to draw 2.5 m tourists next year

  • Tourism Secretary Chulananda Perera says National Tourism Policy submitted with amendments for Cabinet approval next week
  • SLTDA Chief Priantha Fernando outlines plans to woo high-end tourists and achieve 2.5 m arrivals next year
  • Says 33% of total arrivals are repeat visitors, an indication of demand for SL

Sri Lanka tourism authorities yesterday accepted the challenging 2.5 million arrivals target outlined in the interim Budget presented by President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Tourism Ministry Secretary Chulananda Perera said the National Tourism Policy has been submitted to the Cabinet Office for approval by next week. 

“We hope the national policy will help to identify key attractions and decentralised development of the industry to achieve the ambitious target of 2.5 million arrivals next year,” he said at a press briefing organised by the Government Information Department yesterday.

On Tuesday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance Minister proposed to allocate Rs. 300 million for the development of the tourism industry, whilst setting an ambitious target of 2.5 million arrivals for 2023.

The Ministry Secretary said there was a national policy already prepared when they took office, but the new one was presented for Cabinet approval and was revised based on four key areas; use of technology, availability of facilities, transparent procedures, and skill development. 

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Priantha Fernando said they will revise the tourist arrival targets in line with the Government’s policy plans.

“We accept the challenging target of 2.5 million arrivals next year, though the target was set at 1.6 million after a thorough analysis of global trends,” he added. 

He also said Sri Lanka Tourism has already stepped up its efforts to boost promotions, whilst expediting processes to resolve certain bottlenecks that are critical to wooing visitors.

SLTDA Chief pointed out that around 33% of the arrivals are repeat visitors, which is a good sign that Sri Lanka is in demand. 

“We will expand our offerings, especially the up-market products which have not been developed with the support of the industry stakeholders. There is a lot of scope for wellness and marine tourism,” he said.

Fernando said they have identified over 5,500 tourist attractions countrywide and have established Provincial Sustainable Tourism Units targeting all provinces to decentralise tourism development.

“We noticed that there are drastic differences in facilities available in each of the nine provinces for travellers, especially in Uva, North Western, Eastern, and Northern provinces. Hence, we established these provincial-level tourism units to identify key attractions in the area and to develop facilities necessary for travellers and to maintain them,” SLTDA Chief said. 

“These units are operated with a team of five to 15 people and they are now in stage II of their training. After they get the final training on practical environment, these units will work on developing their provincial tourist attractions,” he added.

As per provisional data from the SLTDA, during the 28-days of August drew 35,381 visitors pushing YTD arrivals to 494,051. The UK topped the tourist traffic to Sri Lanka with 18% or 6,495 travellers despite the travel advisories, followed by India with 14% or 5,015, Germany with 9% or 3,065, France with 7% or 2,689 and Canada with 7% or 2,400. 

As per Central Bank data, earnings from tourism in the first seven months amounted to $ 825 million, as against $ 50 million in the corresponding period of last year impacted by COVID pandemic.  In July, tourism earnings are estimated at $ 85 million, compared to $ 6.3 million a year ago. 

(Daily FT)