Tourism earnings surpass $500m in 1Q

March earnings at $ 198.1 m reflecting 9.8% growth over same period in 2022
Tourism Minister Harin Fernando says industry has proven as a key pillar of economic recovery 
Says positive global limelight on Sri Lanka was major boost to be an attractive destination

Earnings from the tourism industry exceeded half a billion dollars in the first quarter of 2023, in tandem with the record number of arrivals Sri Lanka welcomed in first three months of the year. Tourism earnings in the first quarter of 2023 were at $ 529.8 million, reflecting a 9.8% increase from the corresponding period of last year, whilst March earnings stood at $ 198.1 million, the latest Central Bank data released showed.

Although the tourism industry was hit by multiple challenges, post-Easter Sunday 2019, the sector has proven again its resilience with a remarkable resurgence amidst the adverse publicity of political and economic crises.

“Our efforts to make tourism a thriving industry to overcome the economic crisis and be a key pillar of our economy is now evident. The industry has spoken to itself as a major contributor to economic recovery. I am confident with the initiatives Sri Lanka Tourism has embarked on this year, we will have its results by the end of the year,” Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told the Daily FT.

For the first time after 2019, Sri Lanka Tourism recorded over 100,000 tourist arrivals in three consecutive months of 2023, whilst March recorded the highest post-COVID arrivals figure of 125,495. 

The growth in the first quarter of tourist arrival is 18% compared to the same period last year, but still 53% lower than the first quarter of the benchmark year 2018.

Just last week, Sri Lanka Tourism upwardly revised the tourist arrivals forecast for 2023 from 1.55 million to an ambitious goal of luring 2 million – a move influenced by the remarkable rise in March arrivals.

The Minister commended all industry stakeholders for their resilient and dynamic persuasion to overcoming obstacles and for revitalising the industry. 

“With Sri Lanka continuously gaining in the global limelight for its unique tourism offerings in 2023 for positive and deserving reasons has been a major boost to showcase the attractiveness of the destination,” Fernando added.

Sri Lanka has been listed among the top 23 Best Places to Travel this year, by the prestigious Forbes magazine in its March edition under the Europe/Asia category.

In February, Forbes magazine recognised Sri Lanka as a ‘Top Wildlife Safaris Outside of Africa’. In addition, the country was ranked ninth in a list of the 50 most Instagrammable places in the world in 2023, based on Big 7 Travel social media data, whilst the destination was also ranked among the top 24 countries to travel in 2023 by TravelTriangle, a leading online holiday marketplace.

Sri Lanka lost over $ 10 billion in foreign exchange earnings, which generate over $ 4.3 billion annually, due to the pandemic during the past two years.

From 17 to 21 April, Sri Lanka Tourism has planned its first roadshow post-COVID pandemic in China targeting three key cities including Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, whilst planning another roadshow in India, targeting three cities in the south –Chennai, Bangalore and Cochin. 

Minister Fernando said the short-term and medium-term strategies rolled out by Sri Lanka Tourism will assist to reach the year-end goal.