Tourism authorities positive over reaching 2.2mn tourist target

To reach 2.2mn target, arrivals should grow 43% YOY Only instance such growth achieved was in 2010 with peace dividend Tourism Minister expects earnings to reach US $ 3.5bn this year Earnings from tourism so far at US $ 2.5bn; 2015 figure was US $ 2.98bn

The country’s tourism authorities yesterday said they were extremely confident of posting probably the second best tourism performance figures of the past four decades despite escalating global safety concerns.

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To reach the 2.2 million tourism arrival target, the arrivals for the next three months would have to increase by 691,595 tourists or 43.32 percent yearon-year (YOY).

“2.2 million is nothing now. We have already got one million five hundred and eight thousand who have come to Sri Lanka. This is the height of the season we’re coming to. In the next three to four months we can get the balance,” Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday in response to a question raised by Mirror Business, he said that he had revised down his 2.5 million target because he had initially “aimed high as always” but that other problems could crop up, similar to the situations in the Maldives, Middle East and in the Far East.

The bureaucrats and politicians had thrown around various different arrival targets over the course of the year.

Two months ago, Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa had said that there were some doubts about reaching the 2.2 million arrivals.

Tourist Hotels’ Association of Sri Lanka Chairman Hiran Cooray, speaking at a United Nations World Tourism Organisation event, had placed his projection at two million arrivals.

Amaratunga noted that the government is expecting the arrival growth to come from all its current major markets and that Sri Lanka being a safe destination would also contribute heavily towards reaching the goals of 2016 as well as the targets up to 2020.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Paddy Withana said that some road shows conducted recently could also bear fruit.

“I’m looking specifically at the Scandinavian countries because we had road shows recently. We’re looking at the Australian market. We also did some road shows there recently,” he said.

He noted that there would be definite increases from Sri Lanka’s two largest source markets— India and China. This is despite growth from India coming to a standstill in September and the total arrival growth from China for the month slowing down to 3.6 percent YOY.

The only other instance when arrivals had exceeded the now projected growth threshold since the start of the 30-year civil war had been in 2010 with the peace dawned on the country.

In 2010, tourism arrivals grew 46.12 percent YOY but for the final quarter of the year grew 50.81 percent YOY.

So far in 2016, arrivals have grown by 14.6 percent YOY, helped by unexpected increases in arrivals in June and July.

A highly placed source in the government, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that this was mainly due to last-minute changes of travel plans to safer destinations following terror attacks at some of the most popular tourism destinations.

Several industry sources have projected arrivals to grow between 10-15 percent YOY for 2016. To reach the 2.2 million target arrivals should have grown by at least 22.2 percent for the year.

Growth rates of arrivals have been in decline from 26.7 percent in 2013 to 19.8 percent in 2014, down to 17.8 percent in 2015.

The industry is awaiting a long overdue marketing campaign. The Rs.800-million campaign whipped up by the current administration is expected to take off early next year. However, Withana noted the returns expected from the campaign have not been calculated yet.

Amaratunga said that he is expecting US $ 3.5 billion in foreign exchange receipts from tourism for 2016, up from US $ 2.5 billion in revenue earned so far this year. Foreign earnings from tourism in 2015 had been US $ 2.98 billion.

Some analysts theorize that it is more important to develop the quality of the tourism product in Sri Lanka instead of chasing after numbers, a policy which had been discontinued globally since the 1970s.

Source : http://epaper.dailymirror.lk/epaper/viewer.aspx

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