Sri Lankan Tourism has made a stronger recovery sooner than expected. Tourist arrivals in June almost doubled to 63,072 from 37,802 in May, though 57% lower compared to the previous year, and year to date performance remains negative.
Minister of Wild Life, Christian Affairs and Tourism John Amaratunga said the faster recovery could be predicted with the latest arrival figures. “We had earlier predicted nine months for the industry to recover. But the latest figures confirm that it could happen within four months. Sri Lanka ended 2018 with 2.33 million tourist arrivals, up 10.3% over 2017 and though we would not pass this figure, we would touch the two million arrivals market in 2019,” he told the Daily News Finance, at the opening of the third Curry Pot Restaurant in Colombo 4, yesterday.
Amaratunga said that the Bible of tourism, ‘Lonely Planet,’ despite the Easter Sunday blasts, has once again said that Sri Lanka is the world’s best destination for tourists to visit. “While giving tremendous free publicity, this reassurance by ‘Lonely Plant’ is a huge encouragement for travel agents and tour operators to market Sri Lanka in their usual aggression,” Amaratunga said that one reason for the speedy recovery is the assurance by the government and security forces on the country’s overall security situation.
Removal and toning down of travel advisories and focus on the global marketing campaign and the unity of the industry stakeholders too attributed to this.” The Minister said the incidents of 21/4 showed as to how dependent the country was on tourism and its roots, even stretching to the poorest of poor. “This is one reason the government came up with a relief package for the industry and other stakeholders.”
However, Amaratunge said that the implementation is still slow and added that he was constantly in dialogue with the President, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, to speed up this process.“However, I cannot extend this influence and persuasion I am making to the government to both private and state banks and also finance companies as they are not under my purview.”
He also said that restaurants serving 100% authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, are gaining in popularity not only among Sri Lankans but also among foreigners as well. “The Sri Lankan cuisine too was highlighted in ‘Lonely Planet’ and this is also a plus point for Sri Lanka’s destination marketing.”