“It is therefore prudent to surmise that this influx of tourists have patronized the bungalows, guest houses and residences of relatives as their preferred abode as opposed to regular hotels,” he said.
“Whilst this casts doubt on the classification of “tourist”, it certainly displays the lower spending potential of tourists which doesn’t auger well for the industry as a whole.”
A significant proportion of the foreigners visiting Sri Lanka are thought to be disapora Tamils returning to visit relatives in their native towns and villages in the northeast of the island.
Gunawardena said that although the big picture indicated many positives, the reality was that the hotel industry continued to face challenges such as the dearth of trained staff, price wars, lack of rooms, inconsistent service standards and inadequate marketing efforts in foreign markets.
He identified the upside to include rapid development of road networks complementing the tourism product and encouraging other tourism supplementary byproducts.
Expressways, he said, will make long traveling time shorter and comfortable and even remote locations which hitherto would have been off the tourism menu now being offered making the options sweeter.
“Also, efforts taken by the authorities to develop Colombo city and suburban infrastructure, beautification and ensuring cleanliness are to be lauded as tourism friendly initiatives which will further complement the tourism product,” he said.