ECONOMYNEXT -Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) expects to attract around 800,000 tourists for the rest of the year, with an estimated revenue of 800 million US dollars with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe instructing to attract Indian tourists amid a worsening economic crisis.

“The Prime Minister has instructed officials to prepare a plan to attract tourists from India for the next six months,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement after a meeting between Wickremesinghe and SLTDA officials.

“He also requested the relevant authorities to make arrangements for the resumption of operations of the Palaly Airport,” it said referring to the airport in the former war zone of Jaffna. Palaly airport is expected to attract Indian tourists into Sri Lanka’s culturally-rich North and East.

Sri Lanka witnessed the arrivals of 378,521 foreign visitors to the island nation in the first five months of this year. The Covid-19 pandemic hit 2021 saw 194,495 tourists for the full year.

The tourism industry started to boom in March this year, but the arrivals hit by economic crisis and protest-led political crisis.

Tourism accounted for 5 percent of the GDP in 2018 with 4 billion US dollar earnings, but  fell in 2019 due to the impact of Easter Sunday attack and later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has brought 680.7 million US dollars in the first five months of this year.

Sri Lanka is targeting around 2.5 million tourists by 2025 with an expected revenue of $ 3.5 billion and the Prime Minister urged all stakeholders to formulate long-term plans to attract around 1.5 million high-level tourists.

“The Prime Minister also instructed the relevant stakeholders to engage in youth awareness programs as many employees in the hospitality sector have already left for other locations and the number of new recruits to hotel schools in the country has come down drastically,” the prime minister’s office said.

“The Prime Minister also discussed the possibilities of organizing cultural festivals which will provide a unique opportunity to create new employment opportunities and allow the tourists to immerse themselves in the local cultures.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Harin Fernando said that he had already held discussions with the diplomatic community to compel the relevant countries to lift the existing tourism restrictions on Sri Lanka. (Colombo/June 14/2022)