Sri Lankan Stability Underscores Another Bumper Year

With a wide pool of source markets and infrastructure upgrades, Sri Lanka welcomes more and more visitors

After another year of double digit growth in the Sri Lankan market, ITB Berlin News talks with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Tourism Development, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga, about recent results and the roll out of future strategies at this year’s show.

In 2016, Sri Lanka welcomed 2,050,832 tourists, which is a 14% increase over the previous year. The key trend that we have observed is the growth in regional tourism. We had 356,729 arrivals from India (12.8% growth year on year) followed by China with 271,577 arrivals (26.4% growth YoY). Europe also remains a key market for Sri Lanka, and is second only to Asia. UK records the highest number of tourist arrivals followed by Germany and France. In addition, we have seen an increase in arrivals from the US, Middle East and Australasia as well.

Please tell us about some important tourism infrastructure upgrades

Our infrastructure development is ongoing. We are currently implementing sea port and airport development in Hambantota, which is becoming a popular destination with the addition of many upmarket properties including the new Shangri-La Hotel. Meanwhile, Colombo Financial City is a joint project of the Sri Lankan and Chinese Governments in which a new city will be built on land reclaimed from the sea. The city will include skyscrapers housing corporate offices, luxury hotels, shopping malls and a marina which will change the economic and geopolitical landscape of Sri Lanka. Work is already in progress. The country’s main international gateway is the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, and the airport runway is currently being resurfaced and expanded to handle the biggest aircraft in service today including the Airbus A380. Work started in January and is expected to be completed by 7th April 2017. There are approximately 185 flights that operate daily and airlines have re-scheduled their flights so as to both facilitate the work in progress and minimise inconvenience to passengers. With 2 million arrivals last year, the airport is running at 150% capacity. In order to ease passenger traffic two new terminals including a domestic terminal are to be added in the near future. Phase 2 of the airport expansion project will be the addition of a second runway. Work is to begin in September or October 2017.

You have linked Sri Lanka’s tourism development to the United Nations year of sustainable tourism development. What is being done to assure best practices in this respect?

Sri Lanka Tourism actively supports sustainable tourism development and some of our initiatives include the development of the necessary skills and awareness among boat operators involved in whale and dolphin watching excursions so that they protect marine habitats. Meanwhile, we have increased the number of forest reserves by promoting environmental protect ion and tree planning programs; and actively promote energy conservation, green certification and use of renewable energy through hotel registration process. In addition, we have established standards for tourism-related land use where all tourism projects have to undergo a compr e h e n s i v e Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to approval for any development purpose.

What is new from Sri Lanka at ITB Berlin this year and what do you hope to achieve?

We have created more visibility through a welldesigned, attractive pavilion that visually conveys the attractions on offer in this paradise island. Today, Sri Lanka is a safe haven for tourists. We have a rich heritage depicted in six World Heritage Sites, a food culture based on exotic spices, one of world’s oldest healing methods – Ayurveda – diverse wildlife, golden beaches and many adventure activities. ITB is a good platform to communicate this message to the world