In June, international tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka increased by two-thirds compared to the previous month, SLTDA data shows. 37,802 tourists visited in May, increasing to 63,072 in the month of June.
This increase in tourist arrivals is a positive sign and could signal the start of the recovery of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry that was severely affected by the April terrorist bombings.
SLTPB officials expected tourism numbers to be impacted by around 70% in the aftermath of the bombings, and this prediction came true with arrival figures for May 2019 down 70.8% compared to the same month last year. The tourist arrival numbers for June were down 57% year on year (YoY).
May and June are traditionally considered ‘low season’ months with fewer tourists visiting compared to earlier in the year. In May 2018 129,466 tourists arrived, and 146,828 in June 2018.
The start of the rebound?
Tourism numbers are significantly down year on year, but it is positive that visitor numbers have increased from 1,200 per day in May to 2,100 per day in June.
This increase in arrivals cannot only be attributed to seasonality. Between May to June 2018, arrivals increased by 14%. This year, in the same period they increased by 67%.
Many countries have recently relaxed their travel warnings advising against travel to Sri Lanka, which likely contributed to the increasing number of visitors.
In May and June, SLTPB continued with high-profile promotion activities, including inviting social media influencers to visit and receiving delegations from Thailand in support of tourism partnerships.
Sri Lanka was expecting a significant increase in tourism over 2019 and was named Lonely Planet’s no.1 destination to visit for the year, a commitment the travel guide recently reaffirmed. In Q1, international tourist arrival numbers were up an average of 4.2%. Based on this growth continuing, 135,000 tourists were expected in May, and over 155,000 in June.
In June, Asia & Pacific overtook Europe to become Sri Lanka’s top source market with 54% of tourist arrivals. This was a reversal of what we saw in Q1 2019 where Europe had just over 50% of the market share and Asia & Pacific 40%.
All regions experienced a decline in arrivals YoY. Compared to June 2018, arrivals from Asia & Pacific were down 60.5% at 86,000 with the drop in numbers from India and China having a significant impact.
Europe was the second largest source market with 32% of total arrivals, down 51.4% YoY at 42,000. The Americas was the third largest market with 9,000 tourist arrivals, 9% of the total. Prior to the bombings, the Americas region had been experiencing steady growth.
The Middle East accounted for 4% of total tourist arrivals in June and Africa 1%.
Country by Country
India was the top source country in June with 15,045 tourist arrivals, 24% of the total. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka tourist launched a promotion campaign in June aimed at targeting tourists from its neighbouring country.
Australia overtook the UK to become the second largest source country with 4,410 arrivals, despite being down 56% YoY. Visitor numbers from the UK were down 64% to 4,365. Both accounted for 7% of the total arrivals.
Tourist arrivals from China were down a huge 83% to 3,496, moving the country to fourth place at 6% of total arrivals.
The other top ten source markets were (in descending order) the Maldives, with 3,350 arrivals, Germany with 3,312, Canada with 2,827, the United States with 2,412, France with 1,989 and Saudi Arabia with 1,500 tourist arrivals.