SL tourism confident of ambitious 2 m arrivals in 2023

Sri Lanka Tourism expressed confidence in the industry’s potential to welcome two million arrivals and generate $ 3.7 billion in income this year, whilst setting its sights on increasing arrivals to 5 million and earning an impressive $ 21.6 billion within seven years.

As part of its long-term strategy to welcome 5 million visitors by 2030, it hopes to lift the average spending per visitor to $ 4,000, with 2.5 million of them spending over $ 500 per day, indicating a concentration on luring high-end tourists.

Speaking at a forum to give an update on strategy, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Priantha Fernando acknowledged that despite the internal and external challenges, the industry has performed reasonably well and called for collective efforts from industry stakeholders to make tourism the country’s leading foreign exchange earner by 2027.

“By working together and capitalising on the country’s inherent attractions and unique offerings, Sri Lanka has the potential to emerge as a leading global tourism destination in the coming years,” he stressed.

Citing data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 2023 data, he said the tourism industry has shown promising signs of recovery, with an 80% rebound compared to the post-COVID period. However, he said the sector faces challenges in long-haul travel, demanding a closer examination of new product development opportunities to explore new markets such as India to achieve the ambitious targets.

Highlighting President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vision of surpassing $ 15 billion in tourism income over the next five years, the Chairman stated the industry needs to embark on a data-driven decision-making process to attract high-end visitors.

Fernando also said SLTDA recognises the need for additional hotels and room capacity to attract high-end tourists, to Sri Lanka. “Currently, the country offers around 9,000 to 10,000 high-end rooms; in high-end hotels, boutique hotels, and villas,” he noted, adding that plans are underway to revamp the four-decade-old Sri Lanka Tourism resorts countrywide as embargoes on budgets and spending that was imposed due to economic crisis have been relaxed from last month.

In a bid to streamline and expedite tourism investments, he said the waiting time has been reduced to less than 50 days, whilst noting that from May 2022 to May 2023, a total of 32 projects, including 1,283 hotel rooms, with a combined investment of $ 160 million, have received approval.

Fernando said Sri Lanka Tourism plans to conduct an airport survey by the end of this year, involving 4,000 participants to gather valuable insights into traveller preferences and expectations, highlighting the industry’s commitment to staying up-to-date with evolving tourism trends. The last survey of this nature was conducted in 2018.

As part of ongoing development efforts, he outlined the process of finalising guidelines for tourism services, finalising 11 draft regulations for new services, and declaring new Tourism Development Areas as per the Tourism Act.