SL sets ambitious target of 2.3 m tourists for 2022, $ 4.5 b revenue

Charumini de 

Sri Lanka aims to attract 2.3 million tourists for this year with key focus on the Indian, Middle Eastern and Russian markets, whilst hoping that the traditional markets in Europe will rebound in the latter part of 2022.

“The 2.3 million tourist arrivals is a target that we want to aspire to and to generate an income of around $ 4.5 billion,” Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told international media covering the Expo 2020 in Dubai.

As per provisional data, Sri Lanka finished 2021 with 194,495 tourists, with December attracting 89,506 the highest for a month since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. 

India topped the list of countries bringing in the most tourists with 56,268; followed by Russia 16,894, UK 16,646, Germany 12,442, and Ukraine 7,037.

In 2018, Sri Lanka attracted a record 2.3 million tourists followed by 1.9 million in 2019, which marked the year of the Easter Sunday tragedy. 

The Government is pinning hopes on tourism as a low-hanging fruit to boost foreign exchange earnings.

“To achieve 2.3 million, we need to attract around 195,000 tourists a month. I strongly believe these are not impossible numbers to achieve and confident we would make it,” Ranatunga told the media during the Sri Lanka National Day celebrations at Expo 2020 Dubai.

He was optimistic Sri Lanka would rebound to levels similar to that of 2018 courtesy of a tactical and concentrated marketing approach to attract travellers.

“Sri Lanka is a unique destination for travellers, with a huge diversity. Travellers are free to explore areas of their interest and we will ensure that they get the best and unique experiences. May it be on wildlife, adventure, beach, history, culture, wellness or any other area,” Ranatunga added.

He also described the achievement of nearly 200,000 tourist arrivals in 2021 amidst the pandemic as a major breakthrough.

“We hope this trend will continue. Our expectations are that tourist arrivals will improve to 100,000-125,000 per month in the first quarter of 2022.”  

He also elaborated on the reasons for focusing on India, Middle East and Russian markets for promotion in the upcoming months.

“As COVID-19 had resurfaced in our traditional markets, particularly in Europe, there is a lot of potential to attract Indian, Middle Eastern and Russian travellers wanting to make a holiday.”

Ranatunga said excellent air connectivity to these markets is another key factor to attract more tourists this year.

“The Middle Eastern market is considered a key and growing tourism market for Sri Lanka,” he stressed.

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