Sri Lanka tourism rides bumps amid political instability

Sri Lanka is facing uncertainties in the tourism sector with a drop in group bookings and the rapid depreciation of the rupee. Despite the political upheaval, tourism numbers in November rose by 16.8 per cent year-on-year. However, the coming months may see a regression as hospitality stakeholders in the island have confirmed that the volume of forward reservations as well as enquiries have slowed down.

Arrivals from India, Sri Lanka’s main source market, rose by 21 per cent, fuelled by a growth in MICE events and incentive tours, while other key markets like the UK (up 61 per cent) and Germany (up 90 per cent) also performed well. China however, recorded a two per cent fall.

Trevor Rajaratnam, president of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka, said that while the crisis has not impacted FITs and family travel, group travel has been affected.

The new Sri Lankan tourism marketing campaign under the slogan ‘So Sri Lanka’, launched at WTM London in November, has come to a standstill as calling for tenders and payments of invoices have been delayed. The full campaign is scheduled to be launched at ITB Berlin in March 2019.

An additional woe for the inbound tourism industry is the sharp depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar, down 18 per cent this year. However, with the recent reinstatement of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the political balance is likely to attain equilibrium, allowing Sri Lanka to retain its exceptional growth in inbound MICE and leisure tourism in 2019.