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Rebound of Sri Lanka’s Tourism sector: RIUNIT report

sri lanka tourism tourist beach

The Research Intelligence Unit (RIUNIT) has released a comprehensive report shedding light on the current state of the Sri Lankan Travel and Tourism sector. Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crises, the data reveals promising
trends in tourist arrivals and spending, indicating a gradual recovery in the industry, paving the way for ample opportunities for investors to explore. 

In an exclusive interview with the research team, Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said that “the 2023 tourist arrival trends paint an optimistic picture, especially when reflecting on the circumstances of the past year. We have successfully accelerated the recovery process despite numerous challenges, from the onset of the COVID- 19 pandemic to the recent economic crisis. In contrast to our competitors such as Malaysia, India, and Vietnam, who did not experience economic challenges, our recovery, when compared to theirs in numbers, stands out significantly. We anticipate an even more substantial year ahead for us. We are currently formulating a comprehensive plan that will be unveiled in the coming month”

The report indicates a notable surge in tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, reflecting renewed confidence in travel. In 2022, there was a significant year-on-year growth of 270.18%, with a total of 719,978 visitors. The trend has continued into 2023, with tourist arrivals totaling 904,318 from January to August, surpassing the entire year's arrivals in 2022.

After a sharp decline in 2020 and 2021, tourism receipts saw a slight increase in 2022, reaching US$1,136.30 million. The first two quarters of 2023 also showed positive signs, with receipts totaling US$503.9 million in Q1 and US$371.1 million in Q2.

Tourism receipts Q1 2022 - Q2 2023

Source: Compiled by the Research Intelligence Unit (RIUNIT) with data from Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka continues to attract tourists from diverse regions, with major Middle Eastern, Indian, European, and Asian carriers contributing to the country's popularity. In 2022, Sri Lankan Airlines held the highest market share at 33.3%, followed by Qatar Airways and Emirates.

In a significant turn of events, several international airlines that had temporarily suspended or significantly reduced their operations to Sri Lanka during the global COVID-19 pandemic have now resumed full-time operations. 

Airlines that have recently resumed operations, launched new services, or commenced scheduled operations Thai AirAsia Resumed Operations, Air China Resumed Operations, Air Seychelles Launches a New Service, Uzbekistan Airways Resumed Operations, Alliance Air Resumed Operations
Air France Resumed Operations, Azur Air Resumed Operations
Aeroflot-Russian Airlines Resumed Operations, THAI Smile Airways

Launches a New Service


Source: Compiled by the Research Intelligence Unit (RIUNIT) with data from the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited 

“Several international airlines that temporarily suspended or significantly reduced their operations to Sri Lanka during the global COVID-19 pandemic have now resumed full-time operations as passenger demand have rebounded and the payload is met. Among these airlines are QATAR Airways, SINGAPORE AIRLINES, and Emirates,” Airport and Aviation Services Sri Lanka (Private) Limited

The report provides insights into fluctuations in cruise line arrivals to major ports, with March 2024 emerging as the busiest month. The data indicates a growing interest in cruise tourism, with various cruise lines choosing Sri Lanka as a destination.

Total upcoming cruise arrivals to major ports by month Nov. 2023 - Apr. 2024

Source: Compiled by the Research Intelligence Unit (RIUNIT) with data from CruiseDig

The complete RIUNIT report on the Sri Lankan Travel and Tourism sector can be accessed on the organisation's website. Interested parties can visit RIUNIT website to access the full report to gain in-depth insights into the industry's current state, emerging trends, and potential investment opportunities.

The Research Intelligence Unit is a London based think tank with a strong presence in Asia and recently celebrated 20 years of service in Sri Lanka.

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