Sri Lanka is betting big on its tourism industry to boost its economy and targets to cross the 2018 tourist footfall level within this year, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau General Manager Krishantha Fernando said on Saturday.
Sri Lanka has been grappling with crises since 2019 when the country was rocked by a series of deadly blasts on Easter in April damaging the tourist industry, and this was followed by Covid-19 and then the financial crisis thereafter.
The island nation, which is recovering gradually and is stepping up its efforts to attract international tourists back to Sri Lanka, hosted 1 million international travellers, of this 1,80,000 travellers were from India, Fernando told PTI over the phone.
"The tourism industry is recovering and we have welcomed 1 million international tourists, of this 1,80,000 tourists were from India. Looking at the current momentum, we expect to cross the 2018 level, one of the best years for the tourism sector, within this year," Fernando told PTI on the sidelines of a two-day 'BLTM (Business+Leisure Travel and MICE) 2023' that ended on Saturday.
Currently, he said, India is the number one source market for Sri Lanka followed by Europe and Russia. A record number of 4,24,887 Indian tourists visited the island nation in 2018.
"Besides India, there has been a rise in tourist arrivals from European countries and Russia. I think as we are promoting our country as an all-year-round destination and the growth in tourist arrival will continue to increase and we will be able to reach our target of crossing the 2018 level. Cricketing events like the recent 'Asia Cup' also helped in boosting our tourism sector," he added.
Sri Lanka is focused on MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events), which also includes destination weddings, and leisure tourism, including family, honeymoon and independent travellers, Fernando said.
"With our beaches, mountains, and heritage sites with rich history and diverse wildlife, Sri Lanka is becoming popular as an ultimate wedding destination. Also, with a conducive climate, the country is attracting travellers throughout the year," he said.
To attract more and more Indian tourists, Sri Lanka has conducted several activities, including multi-city roadshows in Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, collaborating with travel agents, and increasing digital presence among others, he added.