From left: Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa, Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Paddy Withana and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Managing Director Sutheash Balasubramaniam Pic by Kushan Pathiraja
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Sri Lanka is hoping to achieve 2.5 million tourist arrivals this year on the back of the much delayed and amended Rs. 800 million tourism promotions campaign which will be launched this June, Sri Lanka Tourism officials said this week.
“This year, we are hoping to attract 2.5 million tourists,” Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said at a media briefing yesterday.
He noted that despite the semi-closure of the Katunayake Airport for the next 4 months—which is a ‘tremendous setback’ due to being scheduled during the peak tourism season—the promotions campaign, coupled with the word of mouth of tourists who visited the country in 2016 would help achieve the targets.
Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa said that cabinet papers have been submitted for the approval of the tourism promotion campaign, which would be launched this June.
“But we have changed the campaign. It was supposed to have four smaller campaigns focusing on different areas like digital media, but we have decided to go ahead with one larger more comprehensive campaign,” he said.
The campaign was to be launched in 2015, which was also considered to be a significant delay to what was required. However, the tenders were cancelled following allegations of corruption by Amaratunga, and the new campaigns were to be launched last September, but were again delayed to this February, before the current postponement. Sri Lanka attracted 2.05 million tourists in 2016, down from a government target of 2.2 million tourists, but up from 1.8 million attracted in 2015. Earnings from tourism increased to US$ 3.5 billion in 2016 from US$ 2.8 billion in 2015.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Paddy Withana said that the government is hoping to include sustainability in its plans for this year in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organization calling 2017 the year of sustainability, though he did not specify details on what sustainable measures will be adopted.