Sri Lanka Tourism is targeting four million tourist arrivals and US$ 5 billion foreign exchange earnings for 2019 with the launch of the long-delayed Global Tourism Promotion campaign in March next year, the Minister of Tourism Development, Christian Affairs and Wildlife, John Amaratunga announced.Amaratunga yesterday assumed duties as the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs and Wildlife in Colombo.After assuming duties, he noted that Sri Lanka Tourism may fall short of the tourist arrival target of 2.5 million for this year due to almost two months of political turmoil that persisted in the Island nation, which pushed several key tourism source markets of Sri Lanka Tourism to issue travel advisories fearing the safety of their citizens in Sri Lanka.
“Our original estimate was 2.5 million tourist arrivals with almost US$ 4 billion in tourism earnings for 2018. However, due to the political upheaval, there were travel advisories, and as a result I have been informed that there have been many cancellations. I am confident that we can regain the lost opportunities for Sri Lanka tourism,” he said.
The tourist arrivals for the first 11 months of the year stood at little over 2.08 million, up 11.2 percent Year-on-Year and Sri Lanka is likely to end up with around 2.3 million tourists for the year.Moreover, Amaratunga added that industry stakeholders had informed him about a slowdown in tourist bookings for January and February.
According to industry stakeholders, the industry has seen a slowdown of around 20 percent YoY in tourist bookings for January- February period.
The minister emphasised that as an immediate measure, he would meet with all foreign ambassadors in Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of tourists visiting the country, and will urge them to withdraw the travel advisories. “I intend to speak to all ambassadors and explain them that Sri Lanka has returned to normalcy and we still have authenticity, diversity and security to offer to all tourists coming here,” he said.
Speaking of tourism promotion campaigns, Amaratunga said the global promotional campaign will be launched at ITB in Berlin in March 2019 as scheduled earlier, while noting that the tourism promotional activities were in limbo during past couple of weeks.
He stressed that in order to reach targets of Sri Lanka’s tourism, the government would appoint ‘capable and able persons’ to top posts at Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management (SLITHM) and Sri Lanka Convention Bureau.
The minister is expected to send a list of nominations for the Chairman post of these four intuitions for Prime Minister’s approval shortly. “The best people who can contribute to the development of the industry will be appointed, and no political henchman will be appointed,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the former Secretary to the ministry prior to October 26 is likely to be reappointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs, while the Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism Development and Wildlife in the dissolved Cabinet, S. Hettiarachchi is likely to be appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife.
The minister also revealed that a new programme will be launched to promote home-stays among locals, to trickle down the benefits of tourism to the grassroots level, in particular, targeting hill country and some of coastal areas.