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Sri Lanka records highest monthly tourists in two years, but challenges remain to sustain growth

Despite the growth, the industry is facing another challenge: maintaining momentum amid an exploding economic–and now energy— crisis

Mar 31, 2022
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Sri Lanka records highest monthly tourists in two years (Photo: Twitter)

In what comes as a silver lining in a gloomy economic scenario, Sri Lanka received the highest monthly flow of tourists in March, surpassing 100,000 for the first time in two years. The sector, an important source of foreign exchanges, has the potential to ease the country’s forex crisis significantly. 

Data released by the Ministry of Tourism showed that 101,192 tourists visited the country between 1 March to 29 March, with Indians contributing to around a fifth of the total.? The numbers crossed 100,000 for the time since the pandemic began in March 2020, almost two years ago. 

Despite the growth, the industry is facing another challenge: maintaining momentum amid an exploding economic–and now energy— crisis.  

Once bringing in $4 billion annually, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry suffered two major disruptions in the last three years: first, the Easter Bombings in April 2019, which killed 259 people, including foreigners; Second, the Covid-19 induced disruption, almost a year later in March 2020. 

The loss of tourism income was one of the primary factors behind the country’s forex crisis. Seven months after the bombings, the tourism sector had recovered almost fully by the year-end of 2019. However, the Covid-19 pandemic three months later brought the industry to a complete halt. 

The recovery has been slow, first due to delayed re-opening of the borders and later because of the deadly second-Covid wave. However, the growth picked up in the second half of last year. From September to December last year, the average monthly growth was around 50 percent. 

However, as the economic crisis worsened this year, the growth rate slipped drastically. In the first three months in 2022, around 280,000 tourists visited Sri Lanka—still 37 percent of those visited in the same period in 2019. 

In a recent speech, the country’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said they were hoping to get $3 billion from tourism income. However, experts and industry players fear another disruption. 

What started as a forex crisis has now turned into a crippling energy crisis, bringing long power cuts, as long as 13 hours in a day, to several parts of the country. The situation is slowly becoming untenable for the hospitality sector. 

 The long power cuts, industry experts warn, would be detrimental. The island country risks losing out on high-end tourists—a class that needs amenities like 👍 uninterrupted power supply, air conditioning, and other facilities. 

  (SAM)

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