Despite major apprehensions over the partial closure of the airport, tourist arrivals were the highest recorded in January, providing the impetus to kick start another record breaking year, the Tourism Development Ministry announced. Tourist arrivals grew by 13 percent reaching 219,360 visitors last month, which is an all time-record for January.
“This performance has laid to rest fears that the partial airport closure will have an adverse impact on tourism. I’m very happy that our efforts to streamline operations to minimize the impact of the closure have paid off,” Tourism Development Minister, John Amaratunga said.
He has been taking several measures to mitigate the fallout from the daytime closure of the Bandaranaike International Airport to facilitate rehabilitation of the two-decade old runway.
Tourist arrivals during the traditional peak winter season have been driven by arrivals from Western Europe which grew by nearly 14 percent year-on-year accounting for 72,500 visitors. A significant feature has been the revival of the Scandinavian market which has been a significant contributor to the numbers.
Meanwhile, arrivals from the Far East driven by China have been impressive, growing by 26 percent, contributing 48,773 visitors while arrivals from South Asia have seen marginal growth with 41,470 arrivals.
Similar to Scandinavia, there has been a noteworthy revival in the Japanese market which grew by 28 percent last month.
Markets that have shown double digit growth include North America, Eastern Europe and Australasia which augur well for the future given the fact that these have been dormant markets for a long period of time.
“It is great to see the non-traditional markets making a substantial contribution to the numbers. This shows that the focused promotional activities in these markets are paying off,” said Minister Amaratunga.
Meanwhile, Africa and the Middle East have shown negative growth which is indicative of the volatile conditions prevalent in the region.
Sri Lanka crossed the two million threshold in the number of arrivals for the first time last year. Although projections for this year have largely been conservative, factoring in the three-month partial closure of the airport during the peak tourist season, indications are that 2017 will in fact deliver the anticipated targets.