- Tourist arrivals from all major source markets fall except for South Asia
- Chinese arrivals down 14.3% YoY to 18,939 tourists
- Brexit windfall seen as British tourists now look for cheaper destinations
The tourism industry’s momentum continued to slowdown this September without effective destination promotions, as the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) statistics indicated that 145,077 tourists visited Sri Lanka during the month, a 2.3 percent fall compared to the same period last year.
Sri Lanka last had a television advertising effort over two years ago and only last month had paid back the arrears to the foreign television stations, according to our sister publication The Sunday Times, while a structured marketing campaign had not taken place for nearly a decade, contributing to the continued slowdown in arrivals since 2010.The government’s own Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020 admitted that its efforts at promotions through trade shows were not generating the required results.
Tourist arrivals from all major regional markets fell this September, except for South Asia, where the market expanded 9.5 percent year-on-year (YoY), hauling in 44,853 tourists.
This was mainly due to 34,481 Indians visiting the island during September, which was an increase of 26.6 percent YoY.
However, it is now widely known that many Indians visit Sri Lanka with tourist visas in order to work illegally, casting doubts on the arrival figures, which incidentally, many tourism firms do not trust, according to a recent research done by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Pakistanis were the only others in the neighbouring region who had had a greater appetite for visiting Sri Lanka, ironically, ahead of a cricket series between the two countries, which is currently ongoing in the UAE.
Meanwhile, 39,610 tourists arrived from the Western European region, registering a 0.9 percent fall YoY. Of the main source markets in the region, arrivals from the UK increased 2.5 percent YoY to 8,574 tourists.
This was despite a fall in real wages for Brits following the Brexit referendum, the delayed negative impacts of the referendum now plaguing Sri Lanka’s former colonial master.
The increase in arrivals from Britain falls in line with analysis from Bartleet Religare Securities, which noted that Sri Lanka would benefit from Brexit as the British switch from more luxurious destinations to Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the major German and French markets in the Western European region fell, with arrivals from the former falling 15.1 percent YoY to 8,574 tourists, while arrivals from the latter falling 7.4 percent YoY to 4,637 tourists.
This is despite Sri Lanka hosting French Travel Agents Congress 2016, which during its previous editions had brought substantially increased arrivals to a host nation.
The relatively smaller Dutch and Spanish markets however recorded strong growth during September.
Visitors coming from East Asia fell 8.9 percent YoY to 31,127, influenced mainly by the continued disinterest of the Chinese in Sri Lanka this year, following a boom last year. The Chinese market contracted 14.3 percent YoY, attracting 18,939 tourists to the island.
The Japanese market however grew 5.5 percent YoY to 4,254 tourists.
In the mid-sized markets, arrivals from the Middle East fell 19.3 percent YoY to 9,331 tourists, while arrivals from Eastern Europe fell 21.8 percent YoY to 6,044 tourists.
The Australasian market expanded 4.6 percent YoY to 7,151 tourists, while the American market fell 4.7 percent YoY to 5,532 tourists.
Over the first nine months of this year, arrivals to Sri Lanka increased 2.9 percent YoY to 1.55 million tourists. The Western European market brought in 516,789 tourists, up 6.4 percent YoY. The South Asian market fell 0.2 percent YoY bringing in 360,355 tourists and the East Asian market grew 2.9 percent YoY to 335,105 tourists.