The series of promotional campaigns to promote the destination will bode well for the tourism industry as travel advisories are gradually relaxed, said Mahen Kariyawasan, outgoing president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).
He said the industry had the potential to return to what it was before the Easter Sunday bombings and the global pandemic to contribute its share to the economy.
Sri Lankan tourism is aiming for almost a million arrivals this year, which seems like a daunting task given the low arrival figures in recent months.
The number of arrivals to the country in the first three weeks of August crossed the 30,000 mark but was lower than the previous month’s arrivals of 47,293 according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
Arrivals this month are unlikely to exceed those of last month due to fuel shortages limiting travel, forecasts say.
Data from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority revealed that around 31,105 foreign visitors arrived from August 1-23, bringing the total number of visitors to the country this year up to August 23 to 489,775, bringing the average daily arrivals to around 1,350.
The economic crisis has caused severe shortages of basic necessities including fuel, food and medicine, while hampering industrial sustenance due to regular power cuts.
However, SLAITO sees a line of fire amid the sluggishness of the industry, a key part of the economy. The travel and leisure sector is a major contributor to earning much-needed foreign currency.
“We expect a fairly good winter holiday season this year and better arrivals next year as the situation in the country improves and all travel restrictions are eased,” Kariyawasan said. .
The winter season runs from November to April during which tourists from the West travel to the East for holidays.
Switzerland, France and the UK have eased travel advisories on Sri Lanka, sending positive vibes to the travel community recently. However, some key markets in Europe have yet to lift the advisories.
SLAITO welcomed the decision of the Swiss and French governments to relax the advisories as both countries are key markets for Sri Lanka.
“We welcome the decision of both countries at a time when the industry is in desperate need of visitors to revive itself and bolster its rapidly depleting foreign exchange reserves,” Kariyawasan said, adding that the removal of bottlenecks is crucial to seduce travelers looking forward to a memorable stay. .
Sri Lanka Tourism plans to hold roadshows in India next month and invite around 500 agents representing the Travel Agents Association of India in November.
India has been a key market for tourism in Sri Lanka and was among the top three markets for arrivals this month along with Germany and the UK. India had 4,262 arrivals, the UK 5,872 and Germany 2,779 arrivals in August.
SLAITO will attend TFTM French Travel Mart next month and World Travel Mart in London in November.
The presence of Sri Lanka’s travel and leisure sector at global promotional events is key to positioning the country on the global travel map and promoting its diversity, Kariyawasan said.