Tourism off to encouraging start as January income tops US$ 160mn

Once idling Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is getting busier by the day with several carriers, specially from Russia, deciding to start operations to the airport in the country’s deep south. Russian carrier Red Wings and another aircraft brought in about 800 tourists to the island last Friday.
 Pic by Nimalsiri Edirisingha


  • Income from tourism trade grows 6.7% YoY to US$ 161.8mn
  • Sri Lanka received over 100, 000 tourists in January 
  • Sharp depreciation of rupee made travelling to SL relatively cheap
  • Influx of Chinese tourists expected with China opening up


Earnings from tourism trade continued its months-long ascent in tandem with the encouraging arrival numbers, which topped over 100,000 in January, a feat which became possible after almost a year. 

This helped the trade to earn US$ 161.8 million in January, recording 6.7 percent growth over the same month in 2022. 

Sri Lanka’s tourism is benefitting from the relative calm in society after the social and political upheaval seen last year, which spooked many prospective visitors. A number of key source markets issued travel advisories against travelling to Sri Lanka. 

Meanwhile, the pent-up travel demand around the world after two years of the pandemic is also fuelling the visitor numbers to Sri Lanka. 

To get the maximum out of this pent-up demand, the country’s tourism authorities have launched several marketing campaigns in selective source markets backed by destination management companies.

Sri Lanka has also been featured by many global travel related publications and social media groups as one of the must visit travel destinations which helps luring in more visitors who are looking for getaways after years of seclusion during the pandemic. 

Sri Lanka is also among the destinations that are poised to benefit from revenge travel from China, as that country is gradually opening up for outbound travel after three years of strict Covid-19 restrictions.

After sharp devaluation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar, Sri Lanka also offers a relatively cheap travel option for global travellers.

If the current monthly acceleration persists, Sri Lanka could end up achieving between US$ 2.0 to US$ 2.5 billion in foreign income from tourism in 2023. 

While this is still half of the peak income earned in 2018, increased forex inflows remain vital for the dollar-starved nation. 
Pandemic decimated Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which was slowed down by the Easter attacks in 2019 before its recovery prospects were delayed by the economic crisis last year.


Public backlash over ‘Deep Jungle Festival’ 

  • Event to be held in the vicinity of Hurulu Eco Park within the borders of a wildlife sanctuary
  • WNPS says event of this nature will only add to the issues this locality already has


Sri Lanka Tourism backed ‘Deep Jungle Festival’ that is scheduled to be held in Habarana towards the end of this week has come under harsh criticism for disrupting the wildlife habitat.
The Deep Jungle Festival is to be held in the vicinity of Hurulu Eco Park, Habarana, which is within the borders of a wildlife sanctuary that is frequented by wild animals. The event is to be held over four days, from February 17 to 20.

The festival is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s office, Ministry of Tourism, and the Department of Forest Conservation.
The official website of Deep Jungle Festival states that its aim is to promote sustainable tourism locations and activities in Sri Lanka, which is known for its charismatic and mysterious historical heritage, spectacular natural environment, and traditional culture. 

“We believe that cultural conservation and environmental protection are the keys to supporting the growth of tourism in the long term,” the website states.
However, some environmental organisations hold a different view as they deem the event planning of Deep Jungle Festival to be irresponsible and damaging to the wildlife habitat.

The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) voiced their concerns on the location selected to host the festival citing tht the outcome would bring more harm than good.
“The society is perturbed that such an event has been provided approval or endorsements by government statutory bodies as the noise pollution that will be emitted by the festival will be a hindrance to the sanctity of wild animals in the locality,” WNPS said in a statement to the media yesterday.

It pointed out that the goal of having wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves is to provide a comfortable environment for the animals inhabiting the area. 
In Sri Lanka, several animal species are on the verge of extinction as their primary natural habitats are getting rapidly decimated. 

“An event of this nature will only add to the issues this locality already has. The fact that locations, where this event has been earmarked to be held, is effectively in the vicinity of a wildlife sanctuary where the habitat needs to be protected, allowing animals and plants a safe spot for breeding, and comfortable surviving,” said WNPS, while stressing the need for the sanctuaries to be well-protected from urbanisation, pollution levels, both noise and other, and destruction.

The backing of the event by the authorities contradicts the ‘Green Growth’ policy pursued by the government.
WNPS urged the organisers to move the event to another location where the sanctity of the natural environment and animals could be kept intact.




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