- Kandy Esala Perahera considered a top tourist attraction in August
- Govt.’s visa fee exemption to have major impact
- July arrivals crossed 100, 000 mark; but still 47 percent down YoY
By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s tourism authorities target 150,000 tourists this month, betting on the continual momentum of the sector’s recovery in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks.
August is considered to be a key month for tourist arrivals as more tourists visit the world famous Kandy Perahera. Over 200,000 tourists visited Sri Lanka in August 2018.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes told Mirror Business that the country is expecting 150,000 tourists this month, a 30 percent growth in arrivals from last month.
In July, tourist arrivals improved by 83 percent compared to May crossing the 100,000 mark for the first time since the April 21 bombings.
However, the July arrivals were still 47 percent down compared to the arrivals in July 2018. The August arrivals are also expected decline by 25 percent over the previous year.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has assured tourists and the public that all measures have been taken to ensure security during the Kandy Esala Perahera and other island wide religious festivals.
Despite the delay in launching the much anticipated 45-day PR campaign and 3-month advertising campaign, Gomes said that SLTPB is moving forward with other key promotional activities such as the visiting blogger programme.
Under the programme, SLTPB recently welcomed over 20 travel bloggers from UK, France, Italy, Spain and USA. The content created by these bloggers is expected to reach over 6 million potential tourists.
Following the Easter Sunday attacks, SLTPB hosted several groups of bloggers, foreign journalists and travel writers.
The blogger programme aims to rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourism brand while further promoting the island’s rich diversity.
According to industry sources, SLTPB is now likely to call for open tenders to select parties for the 45-day PR campaign and 3-month advertising campaign as the Attorney General’s (AG) Department had raised legal concerns over the awarding of the two contracts to J. Walter Thompson (JWT) outside the usual procurement process.
In order to support the tourism sector, the government recently waived off visa fees for 48 countries for a period of six months.
Further, measures have been taken to reduce airport charges by 20-25 percent in order to offer attractive tour packages to tourists.
At the end of July, 1,124,150 of tourists had visited Sri Lanka this year, which is a decline of 18.7 percent compared to last year when 1,382,476 of tourists visited the country during the same period.
The tourism authorities expect tourist arrivals to reach 1.9-2 million this year compared to 2.3 million arrivals recorded last year.