Seven million tourists targeted by 2030 | Sunday Observer
Year 2022 a ‘Visit Sri Lanka’ year

Seven million tourists targeted by 2030

16 January, 2022

With an ambitious plan to attract seven million tourists by 2030 and a USD 10 billion income, the Government has declared the year 2022 a ‘Visit Sri Lanka’ year.

Sri Lanka’s tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic; hence the Government considers its revival as one of its top priorities. The tourist arrivals in 2010, year after the end of the LTTE conflict, stood at 1 million and in 2016, it had doubled this figure.

A sharp decline of inbound tourists was witnessed after the Easter Sunday terror attacks and in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, only 500,000 tourists travelled to the country.

To revive the industry which is battered by a double jeopardy, the Tourism Ministry is putting together a Travel App that will feature information on 5,000 travel sites, hotels, tour guides and other useful information on Sri Lanka. The App with a feature to buy tickets to local attractions online is expected to boost bookings and revenue.

“A key feature will be an emergency button that will alert the closest police station and Sri Lanka Tourism in case of an emergency,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimali Fernando said.

The terms of reference, which define the purpose and structures of the project and the shared goals of the institutions which will come together to make this a success, have been finalised. The Sri Lanka Tourism, Tourism Ministry, Wild Life and Forest Departments, Central Cultural Fund and the Police are among the institutions that will come under one umbrella to offer services once the App is launched.

“The terms and reference will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval shortly,” Fernando said.

The Asian Development Bank is funding part of the Travel App project, financing to feature 150 sites on the App. The European Union has offered assistance to feature Sri Lanka’s wellness tourism on the App, with photos and videos on the facilities in the country.

Hela Wedakama is very popular among French and German tourists. “We beat India to get into the first five countries in the world offering services under this Wellness category,” the Chairperson said.

The Tourism Ministry is also drafting a national tourism policy to ensure a secure and friendly environment for foreign visitors, Ministry Secretary S.Hettiarachchi said.

It will be part of a major revival drive and the international funding agencies, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), USAID and the EU were helping them with part of the funding.

The Government launched a number of relief measures for the industry which was completely shut for one year. In keeping with this, registered guides and drivers were given compensation to the tune of Rs.73 million. A moratorium for loan repayments, relief from water and electricity bills were also offered to hotels and other businesses which are relying on tourists.


Sri Lanka, the safest country to travel

The World Tourism Council (WTC) has named Sri Lanka as the safest country to travel in the Asian region amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Kimarli Fernando said, “In 2022, we are expecting to reach 50 percent of our best year, which is 2018 in which the country recorded 2.3 million arrivals. Our target is to make half of that in 2022,” Fernando said.

According to the SLTDA, the tourism industry has started recovering and the country recorded 44,294 arrivals last November and almost 90,000 in December. From January 1 to 11, over 31,000 tourists arrived in the country compared to 1600 tourists in the first eight days in January 2021.

Compared to other Asian countries, an increase in tourist arrivals can be witnessed in Sri Lanka since the country has been able to manage the Covid-19 pandemic scientifically, she added.

“Sri Lanka is back, and we are open for tourists. Our country has everything a post Covid traveller is looking for. We have created a relaxed, bubble-free travelling for fully vaccinated travellers. Sri Lanka is ready to welcome you with the warmth of our hospitality,” Fernando said.