Cruise ship arrivals to Sri Lanka in the 2014/15 season have almost doubled since the 2013/14 season, which has led to a Rs.5 billion budget on promotions, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).
“Cruise travel, which attracts the wealthiest globally, has doubled in business for Sri Lanka,” SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said, following a working group meeting of the apex Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).
He said that 14 cruise liners had called on Sri Lanka in 2012/13, registering visitor arrivals of 19,615, whilst in 2013/2014 Sri Lanka attracted 22 cruise liners with visitor numbers going up to 27,317.
The numbers this year have increased to 40 cruise liners and the number of visitors is expected to exceed 50,000, according to Athukorala.
He said that this had now become a significant market to focus on and would invest heavily on cruise tourism in the coming three months.
The SLAITO working group, while agreeing to increase supply chain efficiencies such as luggage handling, passenger liaisons, vehicle logistics for easier access into the city and back, discovered that the demand side requires greater attention.
Athukorala said that Sri Lanka would be present at the key cruise tourism travel fair in Busan, Korea in July this year together with the private sector.
“We will also make a pitch for top cruise organisations like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and MSC to have turnaround visits and include Sri Lanka into the itinerary,” he added.
Meanwhile, SLAITO cruise tourism expert Bernie Dole responded positively to the new enthusiasm by the authorities, since the 2016 tourism plan did not include the cruise segment.
He said that cruise tourism had an annual growth of 9 percent in the past nine years, despite the global economic downturn, showing the purchase power of these visitors.
Athukorala said that Sri Lanka Tourism should be targeting the arrival of 100,000 cruise tourists in the coming two years.