Post-civil war, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has witnessed a rapid growth both in terms of tourist arrivals and earnings.
In 2009, the year in which the 26-year-long civil war came to an end, the tourist arrivals accounted for 4,48,000. In 2015, the figure was 17, 98,380, representing a little over 300 per cent growth in six years.
Similarly, the earnings from tourism surged from $ 349 million to $ 2,981 million, a rise of about 7.5 times.
The 2015 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) pointed out that tourism’s earnings were the third in foreign exchange earner, next to workers’ remittances and income from garment exports.
The end of the conflict is generating desired impact in the regions hit by the civil war. The CBSL said: “The tourism industry is blooming in the Eastern and Northern provinces of the country.” Seventy-four tourism development projects, including 56 in the East, were completed in the past six years.
Air services to Tiruchi
An official in Jaffna said if the Palaly airport in Jaffna resumed flight services to Tiruchi following the completion of the proposed modernisation with the technical and financial support of the Indian government, this would also result in greater tourist arrivals from India, especially central and southern parts of Tamil Nadu.
As for the year-on-year change, the tourist arrivals of 2015 recorded 17.8 per cent increase over that of 2014. In the case of the earnings, the figure was 22.6 per cent.
Chinese evincing greater interest
Though India, even in 2015, remained as the leading country of tourist origin with 3,16,247 arrivals, people of China are evincing greater interest to come to Sri Lanka. Last year, the growth rate of Chinese tourists was 67.6 per cent with 2,14,783 of tourist arrivals. This was the highest for any country of tourist origin. However, in the category of regions, Western Europe continued to be the largest tourist origin with tourist arrivals numbering 5,52,442.
Notwithstanding Sri Lanka’s impressive record, the CBSL mentions that “the travel and tourism’s direct and total contribution to both the Gross Domestic Product and employment of Sri Lanka is comparatively lower than regional competitors such as Maldives, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.”
Besides, insufficient hotel rooms, lack of skilled and trained manpower and “inadequate interest” of leading hotel chains are among the challenges being faced by the industry.
Responding to this finding, P.M. Withana, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, told The Hindu that the authorities were taking various measures to take care of manpower requirements. These measures included workshops and courses, some of which covered the Eastern province. He asserted the top hotel chains such as Shangri-La and Hyatt were going ahead with their projects and many more were expected to come. All these would address the issue of inadequacy in hotel rooms, he added. (The Hindu)