Sri Lanka is Counting on Getting more Tourists from India as fewer European Tourists are expected due to the Recession; 1,23,004 tourists or 24 % of the total arrivals were from India in 2022


Meera Srinivasan

Sri Lanka is counting on tourists from India, its primary source market, to boost foreign exchange earnings and aid economic recovery, as the island expects fewer tourists from Europe amid the ongoing recession.

Colombo is currently hosting the 67th convention of the Travel Agents Association of India, in a bid to further boost Indian tourist arrivals in the coming years.

Addressing participants on Thursday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said tourism would emerge Sri Lanka’s chief foreign exchange earning sector in the next decade. Pitching a collaborative regional effort to promote tourism, he asked “Why don’t we make our whole BIMSTEC area one borderless tourist area?”, pointing to the scope in the region to showcase diverse sites and cuisines.

Until May this year, the tourism industry has brought in $3.5 billion into the island, showing signs of bouncing back. Sri Lanka’s tourism sector took a big hit after the Easter Sunday terror attacks in April 2019. Before it could recover, it suffered successive blows such as the pandemic and last year’s financial meltdown.

Prior to that, in 2018, the sector’s foreign exchange earnings totalled $ 4.3 billion, according to the Tourism Development Authority.

India has consistently topped Sri Lanka’s tourist arrival charts in recent years, including during the time of COVID-19 and later, during the island nation’s economic crisis. In 2022, when Sri Lanka experienced its worst financial downturn since Independence — citizens suffered amidst acute shortages of essentials and long power cuts — that triggered a mass anti-government uprising, authorities recorded as many as 1,23,004 tourists from India, or 24 % of the total arrivals, followed by Russia and the United Kingdom.
In the wake of global recession, India and China are “low hanging fruits”, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Chalaka Gajabahu earlier told reporters. “The focus on India and strategic partnerships between the two countries is therefore vital in ensuring a successful recovery for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry,” he said.

Earlier this week, Air China restored service between Colombo and Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan province, with three weekly flights. This was after Sri Lanka Tourism welcomed the first batch of Chinese tourists for the year in March, after a gap of three years since the pandemic.

More Chennai-Jaffna flights

Meanwhile, Air India subsidiary Alliance Air has announced the introduction of daily direct flights between Chennai and Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka.

Launched in 2019 the Jaffna-Chennai flight, currently operated thrice a week, was suspended during the pandemic. Service resumed in December last year, and has since witnessed a surge in demand.

Courtesy;The Hindu