“We have fallen slightly short of the 2.5 million tourist arrivals target for last year, although we had increased number of visitors towards the last few weeks of December. This year’s target was missed mainly due to the political instability we saw post-26 October. However, I think in terms of earnings we have reached the $3.5 billion target,” he told Daily FT.
Whilst full year data for 2018 is expected within this week, tourist arrivals in the first 11 months rose by 11% to 2.08 million. Earnings from tourism in September rose 2.8% to $276 million year-on-year, with cumulative earnings amounting to $3.2 billion, posting 11.2% growth during the first nine months of 2018, the Central Bank said in its latest External Performance Report.
In 2017, Sri Lanka recorded its all-time high of 2,116,407 in 2017, posting marginal growth of 3.2%, while tourism revenue rose by a similar percentage to an all-time peak of $ 3.63 billion.
The Minister claimed that if not for the political upheaval, Sri Lanka would have reached its arrival target during the peak season, with the country also being ranked number one tourist destination in 2019 by Lonely Planet.
Despite repeatedly missing the 2.5 million arrival target since 2016, Amaratunga was highly optimistic that Sri Lanka will receive four million tourists and generate an income of over $5 billion by the end of this year.
“We have planned many new promotional plans for this year. As Sri Lanka has been ranked the top destination to visit this year by Lonely Planet, there are major marketing campaigns evolving around it through various other international magazines, travel blogs and other digital platforms. Therefore, if nothing adverse happens this year, with God’s will Sri Lanka would achieve the set targets for 2019,” an upbeat Minister Amaratunga said.
He also noted that the global promotional campaign along with the tourism logo ‘So Sri Lanka’ will be launched at the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) in Berlin next March, as scheduled earlier.