- Biggest decline in arrivals recorded from China; arrivals from Russia intact
- Govt. expects arrivals to drop 30% this year to around 1.6mn
- Cumulative arrivals up to May down 7.1% to 944,575 tourists
By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals in May fell 70 percent year-on-year (YoY) to 37,000 in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks which killed 250 people, including 45 foreigners.
“We have been talking about hotels going empty and westerners not visiting Sri Lanka. However, with safety being restored, we see numbers slightly edging up,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes said.
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), during the period between April 21 to May 21, tourist arrivals from top10 tourism source markets of Sri Lanka, except Russia, have declined in the range of 40 to 90 percent.
Despite retaining the top position during the period, tourist arrivals from India declined to 9,238 compared to 34,167 arrivals in May last year.
The Indian tourist arrivals however slightly recovered during the first three weeks of May, compared to the latter part of April in the immediate aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks.
The largest decline in arrivals was recorded from China, where arrivals declined to mere 1,762 compared to 18,494 arrivals in May, last year.
Gomes noted that despite the travel warnings, tourists from Europe, Australia and North America continued to visit Sri Lanka.
From Easter Sunday to May 21, tourist arrivals from Australia and France declined to 2,484 and 2,015, respectively, which was below the average rate of decline among top source markets of Sri Lanka.
Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom (UK) during the period declined to 3,297 and the UK replaced China as the second largest tourism source market for Sri Lanka in the first five months of the year.
A similar drop in tourist arrivals was recorded from Germany and the United States.
On the contrary, 1,568 tourists from Russia visited Sri Lanka in the 30-day period, which was slightly above the Russian tourist arrival figure for May last year.
Gomes noted that eight countries so far have softened their travel advisories on Sri Lanka.
Germany, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, China and Belgium softened their travel advisories on Sri Lanka while more countries are expected to follow suit in near future.
According to government projections, tourist arrivals to the country could decline by 30 percent to around 1.6 million this year due to impacts of Easter Sunday attacks.
Up to May, the cumulative tourist arrivals declined by 7.1 percent YoY, to 944,575 tourists.
JWT awarded Rs.920mn campaign
Meanwhile, the SLTPB last week secured the Cabinet nod to award a PR and a marketing campaign worth of Rs.920 million to global advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson (JWT), which is aimed at supporting the recovery of Sri Lanka tourism after the bomb attacks.
Gomes told Mirror Business that SLTPB plans to sign the contract with JWT in the coming weeks after consultations with industry stakeholders.
“We have already mapped out the entire strategy for the campaigns with JWT,” he said.
He noted that the both PR and marketing campaigns could run simultaneously in top 12 tourism source markets of Sri Lanka.
SL to hold CITES conference in Sept.
Gomes also expects a boost to the country’s tourism sector by hosting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) World Wildlife Conference in Colombo, this September.
A representative of Geneva-based United Nation affiliated CITES Secretariat arrived in Colombo last week to inspect the security arrangements for the CITES conference.
Gomes noted that the representative was satisfied with security arrangements and consequently, CITES Secretariat confirmed the hosting of the conference in Colombo.
Over 3,000 foreign delegates and media are expected to participate for the conference.
Lonely Planet chief due in Colombo
The chief of international travel guide book publisher Lonely Planet is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in coming weeks.
Lonely Planet last year ranked Sri Lanka as the top country for travel in 2019.
Further, Gomes emphasised that SLTPB will participate 55 mega events across the world to promote Sri Lanka tourism while setting up the right perception of the country among international travel industry.
Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga last week visited Thailand to promote Sri Lanka’s religious tourism among Thai travellers.