News Item, 16 December 2021: “First 2 weeks of Dec. draw over 24,000 tourists”
Tourism Minister overwhelmed by rebound in arrivals. Nearly 130,000 tourists have come since reopening of borders in late Jan. With just 15 days to year-end, original target of 200,000 tourists unachievable
[However} a record 24,773 tourists have arrived in the country within the first two weeks of December, reinforcing the industry’s optimism for the winter season. “There is a significant increase in the tourist arrivals to the country from September, and we hope the trend will continue,” Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said yesterday.
With the arrivals from 1-12 December added, the cumulative tourist arrivals since the reopening of borders on 21 January is 129,762. These tourists have come from India, Russia, the UK, Germany, Australia, Kazakhstan, the US, France, Canada and the Maldives. As of now, November has seen the highest tourist arrivals of 44,294, pushing the first 11 months’ figure to 104,989.
The Minister said greater air connectivity, targeted promotional activities in source markets, eased travel restrictions and successful vaccination rollout efforts were the key reasons for the upward tourist influx.
Earlier, Tourism Minister had said he was expecting around 180,000-200,000 tourists for the 2021 entirety. However, the target remains unrealistic as just 15 days remain for the year-end.
Given the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron and two weeks of a ban on four South African countries, there was uncertainty in global travel.
As per Sri Lanka Tourism, fully vaccinated tourists can now stay at any type of accommodation without an on-arrival PCR test and they can enjoy a ‘flexible bio-bubble’ with all facilities of the hotels made available, while being allowed to visit approved tourist sites. They are also exempted from obtaining the mandatory COVID-19 local insurance cover, subject to comprehensive travel insurance that will cover health and other expenses related to COVID.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is of the view that the tourism industry must gradually be opened up with lesser restrictions for international travellers along with the aggressive vaccination drive, as it is a key foreign exchange earning sector for the economy.
Sri Lanka has lost around $ 10 billion in foreign exchange earnings due to the pandemic since early last year.
(FT) ….Created: 16 December 2021