Sri Lanka tourism growth requires continuous effort: ForwardKeys

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Dec 02, 2016 (LBO) – Flight bookings for travel to Sri Lanka during the next five months shows a modest 1.3 percent growth compared with the same time last year, according to tourism analytics firm ForwardKeys.

The insights come from their analysis of 16 million flight bookings made by travel agents, research that was presented at the Asian Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference held in Colombo this week.

“Our data shows that Sri Lanka deserves congratulations on a tremendous year for attracting visitors. In a competitive environment, continued effort will be needed to keep up the impressive rate of growth,” Jameson Wong, ForwardKeys, director of business development, APAC, said.

In-depth analysis shows a choppy pattern. Bookings for December and January are respectively 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent ahead, but February and March are 9.8 percent and 21.3 percent behind, the company said.

April is 76.9 percent ahead but this number needs to be viewed with caution because April is 4 months off and booking numbers are consequently relatively low.

The likely reason for the substantial variation is that the Easter holiday season falls later in 2017.

Whilst forward bookings overall appear somewhat lacklustre, within them are a couple of particularly encouraging signs. First, forward bookings for Chinese New Year (Jan 27th – Feb 2nd) are 12 percent ahead.

Second, there appears to be a turnaround in enthusiasm of Russians to visit Sri Lanka, as a trend of falling monthly visitor numbers throughout 2016 is being replaced by a surge of interest. Visitor arrivals for the year to date are 26.4 percent down on the previous year but future bookings for November and the next five months are 13.1 percent ahead.

The cautious outlook is in sharp contrast to impressive visitor growth in 2016 when arrivals have grown by 11.8 percent, which is more than twice the growth of the Asia Pacific region, which grew by 4.9 percent.

Looking at Sri Lanka’s major source markets, India was up 10.3 percent, the UK up 17.3 percent, Germany up 13.1 percent, Saudi Arabia up 8.3 percent and China up 29.2 percent. The latter figure is particularly notable when one considers that Chinese visitors to competitor destinations such as Mauritius were down 0.6 percent and to the Maldives down 17.6 percent.

ForwardKeys predicts future travel patterns by crunching and analysing 16 million booking transactions a day.

The company says it is used by travel marketers, retailers, hotels, destination marketing organisations (DMOs), financial institutions, car rental companies, tour operators, online travel agents (OTAs), and other traveller-focussed businesses worldwide to monitor and anticipate traveler arrivals and stay ahead of the trends from a particular origin market at a specific time.

The analysis enables them to anticipate the impact of events, better manage their staffing levels, fine tune supply requirements, adjust and measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and predict future market trends. ForwardKeys’ data is retrieved daily from all the major global reservation systems worldwide.