Sharp increase in tourist arrivals, says State Minister


State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development, D. V. Chanaka said 194,805 people visited Sri Lanka last year and of them, 89,506 had arrived in December.

“That is a huge increase in the number of tourist arrivals. On some days, there were 5,000 visitors. At present, we have an average of 3,500 tourist arrivals every day. It has a huge impact on our plans to increase the number of tourist arrivals,” the State Minister told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

He said, “This year, we anticipate getting at least the numbers we had in 2018. We will try our best to reach our targets.” State Minister Chanaka said, “The only issue we are facing right now is that even though Sri Lanka is open, some countries have not vaccinated their people as yet. Some countries, especially in Europe, are being closed. China, which is the source market for nearly 20 percent of the tourists who visit Sri Lanka, is still closed for tourism.

“However, we are continuing vigorous promotional campaigns. Hopefully, we will get the number of tourists we had in 2018, this year,” he said. The State Minister said at present the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport has been developed as a tourist destination. “By providing concessions to budget airlines, we have attracted 10 new airlines, which have never come to Sri Lanka before, to the Mattala Airport. At the same time, we are giving much attention to the Bandaranaike International Airport.”

He said at present, the whole world sees Sri Lanka as one of the safest destinations to visit. “CNN Travel has recommended us as one of the top 20 countries to visit. We are also giving concessions, and doing global marketing to bring more tourists to Sri Lanka.”

The Government and the private sector are working together to first get back to the situation that the tourism sector experienced in 2018 and go beyond that later.