Tourism picks up as country returns to normalcy

Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is showing signs of recovery with the internal political situation returning to normalcy, Tourism Ministry’s Additional Secretary for Development, Jayasiri Wijayanath Thennakoon told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

Thennakoon said that many Western countries had lifted their travel advisories against Sri Lanka. The others will consider doing so due to the steps taken by the Tourism Ministry and the State Ministry of Tourism. “We expect a full recovery of the tourism-related economy between 2023 and 2025,” he said.

“The tourism economy peaked in 2018, with the country earning US $ 4.4 billion from the tourist industry that year. We could get there if we could improve the peaceful environment in the country and the safe environment for tourists. We could easily achieve a target of over one billion US dollars,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals fell from 1,913,702 in 2019 to 194,495 in 2021. The revenue fell from USD 3,600 million to USD 261 million as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Easter attack. When asked how sure they were of earning so much, Thennakoon said that the Tourism Ministry is working on a post-Covid-19 tourism rebuilding plan to increase the number of tourist arrivals through large-scale marketing programs.

He said,”We have secured a place to participate in the World Tourism Market, which will be held in London from November 2-10, with a massive tourism promotion campaign targeting high-end tourists.”

“Over 150 countries will participate in the World Tourism Market,” he said.

The State Ministry of Tourism will host the Miss Tourism World 2022 pageant in Sri Lanka in December.

It received approval to host Miss Tourism World after competing against 24 countries, officials from the State Ministry of Tourism told a media gathering at the Cinnamon Grand recently.

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage told the media that she was doing her best to boost the tourism industry to rake in foreign exchange despite many people criticising her whenever she tries to implement a plan.

She said those who criticised her would also benefit from the economic boom that would come as a result of her tourism development strategy.

“This means that people from over 80 countries will watch from their homes to see if their contestant wins, and they see that the event takes place in Sri Lanka. Naturally, they will be inspired by Sri Lanka,” she said.

“This will instill in the minds of the people that Sri Lanka is a friendly country, a safe tourist destination with a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and historical sites to visit, and have a good time,” Gamage said.

“I cannot tell you the exact number of foreigners who will be inspired and how many will travel to Sri Lanka during and after this event and in the future, but the number will be enormous, and it will undoubtedly have a significant impact on tourism industry and economy,” she said.

She said increasing the number of tourist arrivals is a fundamental pillar for recovery. “I am working on that basis for tourism recovery,” she said.

Gamage said Miss Tourism World National Director Malith Ranasinghe was instrumental in securing the event’s hosting through negotiations with Miss Tourism World administrators.

Miss Tourism World is one of the world’s top five beauty pageants. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the pageant in Sri Lanka.