Sri Lanka’s post-Covid tourist arrivals hit an all-time high in October 2021
Daily FT: Tourist arrivals have hit a post-COVID all-time high of 22,771 in October, propelling the cumulative figure to over 60,000.
Arrivals last month reflect a sharp 68% increase from September, largely influenced by the eased travel restrictions, aggressive tourism promotions, services by more airlines, successful vaccination program and growing consumer confidence.
Arrivals in the first 10 months were 60,695 — a major development since the reopening of borders on 21 January, but down by 96% from corresponding period of last year.
In October, the largest source markets were India (8,406), the UK (2,241) and Pakistan (2,042), followed by Russia (1,328) and Germany (1,196), Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) provisional data showed.
During January to October, India became the largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka with 18,466 in the first 10 months, followed by the UK with 4,383, Germany 3,900, Kazakhstan 3,207 and Ukraine 2,910.
Following the lifting of the ban, the National Carrier SriLankan Airlines too resumed passenger flights to India and extended its innovative ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ air ticket offer.
Ahead of the winter season and a one-year break from physical engagement at global trade fairs, Sri Lanka Tourism took part in a series of promotional activities at top travel events in France and the UK. The first of the promotional campaigns was the International French Travel Mart (IFTM) Top Resa in Paris last month, followed by World Travel Mart (WTM) in London, which kicked off on Monday.
As per Sri Lanka Tourism, fully vaccinated tourists can now stay at any type of accommodation without an on-arrival PCR test and they can enjoy a ‘flexible bio-bubble’ with all facilities of the hotels made available, while being allowed to visit approved tourist sites. They are also exempted from obtaining the mandatory COVID-19 local insurance cover, subject to comprehensive travel insurance that will cover health and other expenses related to COVID.
Resumption of flights by SriLankan Airlines over the weekend to Paris following a five-year gap was seen as an added bonus to revive the battered-tourism industry.
In addition, the Government recently approved five new airlines to operate into Sri Lanka which include Edelweiss, Aeroflot and Air France that will start this month, whilst Russia’s Air Azus and Italy’s Nyos Air will start operations in December.
For the last 18 months, Sri Lanka had observed strict quarantine measures for travellers and a series of lockdowns to control the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures have been extremely hard-hitting for all tourism industry stakeholders, including nearly three million dependents due to the twin crises of the Easter Sunday attacks and COVID-19.
With a view to further relax the entry rules and make Sri Lanka more attractive to international travellers, the Government decided to resume the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for fully vaccinated international travellers from October.
The Health Ministry said over 13 million Sri Lankan citizens had received both doses of their vaccine against COVID-19.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is of the view that the tourism industry must gradually be opened up with lesser restrictions for international travellers along with the aggressive vaccination drive, as it is a key foreign exchange earning sector for the economy.
“With the easing of travel restrictions, there is a growing interest from global travellers to visit the country,” Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said.
Sri Lanka has lost around US$ 10 billion in foreign exchange earnings due to the pandemic since early last year.
The all time high in tourist arrivals to the country recorded in the month of October is indicative of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry on the path to recovery. The number of flights operated to Sri Lanka by international airlines have also seen an increase due to the increase in travellers arriving in the country. Sri Lanka has been slotted among the Top 10 island destinations making it an attractive post Covid travel destination. With Sri Lanka’s tourism authorities promoting the country’s tourism industry overseas and the attractive packages offered to visitors, the tourism industry is definitely on the growth path. The expansion in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has opened up opportunities for foreign businesses/investors.
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