By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
More female tourists arrived in Sri Lanka than males in 2016, possibly for the first time in Sri Lanka’s 50-year organized tourism history despite recent travel warnings by several foreign missions in the country of sexual assault on female tourists.
Of the 2.05 million tourists that visited the island in 2016, 54.7 percent, or 1.12 million were females, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) data.
Two tourism sector experts who were contacted said that this could be the first instance where female arrivals have overtaken male arrivals.
The statistics available, since 2000, show that the female arrivals figure has tended to fluctuate between the high 30 and low 40 percentile ranges, with a previous high of 46.4 percent recorded in 2015.
Female visitors overtook male visitors from all regions except East Asia, even within which, more males than females arrived only from China and Thailand.
Although female arrivals from some countries were nearly twice that of males—with female arrivals from Pakistan exceeding twice the number of male arrivals—the biggest absolute boost was from India, where 237,415 females arrived in 2016, up from 85,060 in 2015.
Last year’s development could be attributed to the increasing number of posts on Sri Lanka that could be observed being made by female tourists on social media and blogs, since Sri Lanka’s government has conducted no tourism promotional campaigns, according to the portfolio minister. Just 16.5 percent of the tourists visiting Sri Lanka in 2016 were dependents with no occupation—which could include male children—indicating that most of the female tourists were employed. Further, nearly half of all visitors to Sri Lanka were between the ages of 30-49, while nearly a quarter of all tourists were professionals below the executive level.
Despite the increased number of female arrivals, just one major case of assault against female tourists grabbed headlines last year, although it is possible that many may have gone unreported.
Entrepreneurs in other countries, including in the developing world, have set up female-only tourist hotels and hostels, of which only a handful are present in Sri Lanka.