Sri Lanka aims to lure 2.5mn tourists in 2017
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists in 2017, despite difficulties posed by the partial closure of its international airport and the withdrawal of the national carrier from key markets.
The island got 2,058,000 tourists in 2016, up 14 percent from the year before, Minister of Tourism Development, Christian Religious Affairs and Lands John Amaratunga told a news conference.
Although last year’s number of visitors was below the government’s target of 2.2 million tourists, Amaratunga said it was the highest ever and augured well for the industry.
However, he said, the numbers were far below that of competing destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, which draw 25-30 million tourists annually.
Sri Lanka’s earnings from tourism in 2016 were estimated to be around $3.5 billion, he said.
“We expect to do better this year despite the partial closure of the airport for about three months, from 6 January to 5 April,” Amaratunga said. “That’s a tremendous setback because it will be the height of the tourist season.”
SriLankan Airlines had also pulled out of some of the best tourism markets like France and Germany, Amaratunga said.
“But other airlines have increased the number of flights,” he added.
Sri Lanka will also launch a long-delayed international tourist marketing campaign this year, Amaratunga said.
Sutheash Balasubramaniam, managing director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board, said growth is expected mainly from India and China, which have emerged as the biggest sources of visitors, with high-growth rates.
“This year we also plan to increase our digital marketing, especially in leading markets in Europe like the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” he said.
(COLOMBO, Jan 06, 2016)