Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been hit hard by a currency crisis and political instability that started in 2022. However, there is now an upturn in tourism, mostly from last minute bookings, as the country starts to recover. This article explores the reasons behind this trend and what the future holds for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.
In 2022, Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed after the country’s central bank printed money for two years to target low interest rates artificially. The result was a sovereign default, social unrest, fuel and power shortages, and political instability. The crisis also had a severe impact on tourism, which was already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The winter season bookings were dismal, with returning stability being too late to make a difference.
The Upturn in Tourism
Despite these challenges, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is now seeing an upturn. The main driver of this upturn is last-minute bookings. According to industry officials, forward bookings are only just starting to pick up. Salini Deerasooriya, senior manager of sales and marketing at The Argyle, an upmarket hotel in Hatton, Sri Lanka, said that inquiries are coming up for the summer season. She also added that after the crisis, there has been a pick-up of around 45-50%, with most inquiries being last-minute bookings.
Priantha Fernando, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), said that China will start picking up by next month. He also stated that European countries are contributing the most percentage-wise. In January, Sri Lanka received 67,855 passengers from Europe, and in February, that number increased to 72,957. Hoteliers have also reported that Russia, India, Germany, UK, and Israel have generated traffic.
The Drop in High-end Travellers
However, hoteliers say that there is a drop in high-end travelers. Nadeera Fernando, Head of Sales at W15 Collection, said that their arrivals from inbound travelers (high-end travelers) have been less compared to last year. M. Shanthikumar, President of the Hotel Association of Sri Lanka, added that there is a slight increase in forward bookings, but the industry needs to wait and see the materialization depending on the country’s situation.
Despite the challenges, the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is positive that tourist arrivals will increase. There is a slight increase in forward bookings, and the inquiries for summer season bookings are picking up. Although there is a drop in high-end travelers, the number of tourists from China and Europe is expected to increase soon. Destination Management Companies (DMC) are trying to operate a few charter flights, which is a good sign for the industry.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has faced many challenges in the past year, from currency crises to political instability and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is hope for the industry as last-minute bookings pick up and forward bookings start to increase. The country is still facing some challenges, such as a drop in high-end travelers, but there are positive signs with more tourists expected to arrive from China and Europe. The industry is optimistic that it will recover and become a popular destination for tourists once again.