ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has welcomed 194,495 tourists in 2021 down from around 2.3 million in 2018 before the pandemic with 89,506 tourists arriving in December up from just 393 the previous year, data from the state tourism promotion office showed.
Sri Lanka welcomed 241,663 tourists in December 2019, and 228,000 in January and 207,000 in February 2020 when airports were shut to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told reporters this week that they are targeting 2.5 million tourists in 2022.
Sri Lanka welcomed 507,311 in 2020, who came before airports closed in March due to Coronavirus.
In the first four days of January 2022 11,380 tourists had arrived in the island with 2,032 Russian visitors, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper quoted Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga as saying.
Sri Lanka Tourism data showed from December 1-26 a total of 69,941 tourists arrived in the country, an indication that for the last five days of December 19,565 holidaymakers arrived in the country.
The largest source markets recorded for the month of December were India, Russia,
the United Kingdom, followed by Germany and Ukraine.
Although most tourists came from the European market there are concerns of a setback from the market after the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in those countries as they bring in travel restrictions.
“Even though signs of recovery were evident, the uncertainty for the travel industry is mounting again with countries already practising restrictions and border closures with the emergence of the new Omicron variant,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority report said.
“It is anticipated that, increasing cases in Europe will further dampen consumer confidence which was gradually building after the devastating Delta variant.”
A total of 56,268 Indians had visited the country in 2021 out of 194,495 tourists in 2021.
Russia generated 16,894 visitors in 2021, The UK 16,646 visitors, Germany 12,442 and Ukraine 7,037.
Chinese travellers, the second largest source market for tourists in pre-COVID times remained the lowest with only 2,417 visiting the island for the whole year in 2021.
Although the concerns of the European market looms and as China remains closed for outbound travel, Sri Lanka is confident it will generate 200,000 or 100,000 tourists per month in 2022.
While the SLTDA chief Kimarli Fernando told a forum in December that they are expecting 100,000 tourist arrivals per month in 2022 and are hopeful of Indian travellers.
The island welcomed its highest number of tourists ever in 2018 with 2.3 million arrivals and it dipped to 1.9 million following the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.
However McKinsey & Company, a business consultancy said the Sri Lanka market may take time to recover as China remains closed and the rise of COVID-19 infections in the European markets.
The consultancy predicted that Sri Lanka will return to 2019 levels by 2024 but to reach the 2018 levels may take five years. (Colombo/Jan07/2021)