Sri Lanka targets three million tourists in 2019: minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is targeting three million tourists for 2019 Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said, after missing a 2.5 million target for 2018 partly due to a political and economic crisis triggered by President Maithripala Sirisena.

"We are targeting three million tourists this year," he said on January 14 at the launch of an online entry permit service for the country’s national parks.

The country drew 2.3 million tourists in 2018 up 10.3 percent from a year earlier, missing a target of 2.5 million which was a growth of 18 percent.

President Sirisena suddenly appointed ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister on October 26, who did not have a parliamentary majority and illegally dissolved parliament.

Amaratunga said the 2.5 million tourist target for 2018 could not be achieved due the political crisis which ran from October to December triggering many embassies issue travel warnings.

"The political upheaval made the targets go haywire," he said

Sri Lanka was recently named the world’s top country to visit in 2019 Lonely Planet, a travel publisher.

There has been an increase of interest on social media, bloggers and travel magazines, a Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau official said.

The state also ran multiple promotion campaigns in 2018 to generate interest to visit Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka collected at least 3.5 billion dollars in foreign exchange from tourism in 2018, the minister had previously said in an official statement.





In 2017, foreign exchange earnings were over 3.9 billion dollars.

Amaratunga said tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner in 2018, and hopes to become number two in 2019.

Remittances from expatriate workers and apparel exports have held on to the top two spot over the past two decades.  (Colombo/Jan14/2019)

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