A decades-long civil war effectively wiped out tourism in Sri Lanka but, now, nine years after the war ended, the country is shining brightly as a destination hot spot and is catching the eyes the attention of travelers around the world, but particularly Chinese and Middle Eastern visitors.
In 2015, Sri Lanka welcomed nearly 1.8 million visitors, which is up a whopping 17.8 percent from the previous year. The bump in visitation is largely due to a growth in the number of Chinese visitors to the country.
Last year, Sri Lanka received almost 1.8 million tourists, up 17.8 percent from the previous year – and the trend has continued into 2016. Recently, the government released April tourism numbers and visitor numbers have continued to rise, largely as a result of an influx in Chinese tourists.
According to the report, 721,185 tourists visited the island compared to the 601,055 who visited during the corresponding period in 2015, an increase of 20 percent. While tourist arrivals from North America and Europe were up, most of the increase came from visitors in East Asia. The region’s visitor numbers increased 22.6 percent – and China was up nearly 38 percent.
On the whole, visitor numbers have increased in Sri Lanka from everywhere except Eastern Europe, which could largely be due to the state of the Russian economy and political climate. Russian visitors were down around 28 percent.
According to the Famagusta Gazette, Sri Lanka has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists by the end of this year and 4 million visitors by 2020. One of the ways it intends to reach this goal is by targeting Chinese travelers. The government is, in particular, targeting Chinese airlines to encourage more arrivals in the country.
“We will assure China and the other countries that Sri Lanka is a safe tourist destination for its travelers. China is already one of our top markets and we hope to attract more visitors this year,” Sri Lanka tourism minister John Amaratunga told the gazette.
China isn’t the only country that has caught the Sri Lanka travel bug. The Middle East is another growing market for Sri Lanka tourism. In April, visitor arrivals from the Middle East increased 5.8 percent bringing 5,803 visitors from around the region and the country expects that tourism from the region will increase by 10 percent.
To continue its trajectory, Sri Lanka is planning to host a tourism conference in July. The conference will cover the topic “Tourism: A Catalyst for Development Peace and Reconciliation” and will be held at Pasikudah in Batticaloa from July 11-14. The event will receive assistance from the UN World Trade Organization and about 100 foreigners, including resource persons and journalists, are expected to be in attendance.