Sri Lanka tourism on rebound as political crisis tapers

10 Jan 2019  158 | World Travel News

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is starting to recover from the recent political crisis, which resulted in dampened inbound arrivals for the traditional peak season.

The country now has a new cabinet, with the reappointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on December 16 ending a 52-day political impasse that followed president Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of Wickremesinghe and replacing him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Tourism minister John Amaratunga, who was reappointed along with many other cabinet ministers, said the new So Sri Lanka destination marketing campaign will be launched at ITB Berlin in March along with plans to target an ambitious four million arrivals by 2020. Sri Lanka received 2.3 million arrivals in 2018, short of the expected 2.5 million.

“All promotional campaigns were in limbo (due to the political crisis) but we’ll roll them out again,” he told reporters last week. Campaigns in the next few weeks include participation in travel fairs in Mumbai and Delhi, and the Arabian Travel Mart in Dubai.

Several countries, including the UK, the US and Canada, had earlier issued travel alerts advising their citizens to be wary when visiting Sri Lanka. Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka president Sanath Ukwatte is optimistic that with a cooling of tensions, travel advisories are now more likely to be relaxed.

Still, Ukwatte pointed out that the usual tourism flows have restarted and noted that travellers don’t generally follow travel advisories to the tee. “Look at the Maldives last year, despite travel advisories due to a state of emergency, arrivals didn’t fall,” he said.

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