Sri Lankan tourism arrivals are bouncing back faster than anticipated with around 2,000 tourists arriving per day said Minister for Tourism, John Amaratunga. This is an increase on the 1,700 figure reported earlier this week.
“Our people and our tourism industry who have endured darker days in the past are very resilient. Chances are that we will bounce back with greater vigour in the next three months.”
Estimations from other figures including Kishu Gomes, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau have been upwards of 13 months.
While heavy cancellations have been received for the month of May, Minister Amaratunga reported the situation for June was looking more positive.
“The airlines confessed that cancellations for June and July have not taken place, people are watching and waiting to see how the situation develops. If nothing happens in the next couple of weeks (visitor numbers) will bounce back.”
Currently reported numbers for May are a 60 percent decrease versus the same period last year.
May is consistently the worst performing month of the year for tourist arrivals. Only 130,000 tourists arrived in May 2018. At the current rate, less than 60,000 tourists will arrive this year.
April 2019 saw a 7.5 percent decrease in tourist arrivals year on year. This number does not show the true impact of the attacks & travel advisories as it includes the three weeks of tourism arrivals before the 21 April attacks took place.
Minister Amaratunga called for international support to publicise the progress that has been made.
Meetings are taking place with the Ambassadors and High Commissioners to inform them of the steps taken to ensure the security of visitors. This is in the hopes that the travel restrictions will be eased and lifted.
Minister Amaratunga said the Ambassadors they had met with recently, including the German Ambassador, had been convinced the situation was under control but still needed more time to lift the restrictions.
The issue of travel insurance, which is a large barrier to travel, is being tackled with a travel insurance scheme of up to $150,000 under consideration.
The visa on arrival scheme that was planned to launch on 1 May to drive arrivals during the low season, was put on hold. With appropriate security measures in place to check the background of applicants, the scheme could be launched for all 39 countries originally planned within one to two months Minister Amaratunga said.
“We still have 7 months ahead of us to capitalise on the global recognition that was bestowed on us by the lonely planet” the minister said.
“Our resilience as a people is our strength and we will show the world that Sri Lanka will once again be on the top destination to visit, from next month onwards.”
“Sri Lanka is open for business.”