Battling Losses, Lankan President Requests India & Other Countries to Lift Travel Warnings
File photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (Image: Reuters)
Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena Tuesday appealed to the international community, including India, to lift travel the warnings issued after the Easter Sunday terror attacks, as the country's tourist arrivals dipped 7.5 per cent last month.
The terror attacks on three luxury hotels and three churches on April 21 killed 257 people, including over 40 foreigners. Ten Indians were among the dead. President Sirisena urged the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka to lift the travel warnings since security in the country has been strengthened, Colombo Gazette reported.
The US, China, the UK, India and Australia were among the countries which issued travel warnings on Sri Lanka. Tourism accounts for about five per cent of Sri Lanka's economy, with India, Britain and China being the main markets. The country earned about USD 4.4 billion in 2018 from the tourism sector.
Following Sri Lanka's worst terror attack, India issued an advisory for its nationals in the country. India is the largest source market for Sri Lanka, which received 2.3 million tourists from around the world in 2018. Around 450,000 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka last year and the island nation was expecting the total Indian tourist arrivals to cross one million in 2019.
Meanwhile, according to official tourism arrival figures released on Tuesday, the first monthly report since the terror attacks, showed that Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals declined 7.5 per cent in April 2019 compared to the same period last year.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said April recorded 166,975 foreign tourists in the country compared to 180,429 in April 2018, a 7.5 per cent dip in arrival of tourists from abroad.
As on April 30, a total of 907,575 tourists visited Sri Lanka this year. It was 2.2 per cent growth over last year when 888,353 tourists had visited the country during the same period. The largest source market for tourists in April was the United Kingdom, followed by the India and Germany, Colombo Page reported.
United Kingdom, India, Germany, China and Australia were Sri Lanka's top five international tourist generating markets in the month of April this year. United Kingdom was the largest source of tourist traffic to Sri Lanka with 15 per cent of the total traffic received last month.
India accounted for 14 per cent of the total traffic while Germany, China and Australia accounted for 10 per cent, 8 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
Arrivals from North America fell 37.4 per cent to 8,900 in April and the arrivals from US declined 44.6 per cent to 4,810 during the month while arrivals from Canada declined 24.8 per cent.
Tourist arrivals from India fell by 21.5 per cent with 29,860 visitors arriving while arrivals from China decreased by 18.3 per cent to record 17,462 arrivals. Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera recently told reporters that tourism will be the worst affected.
"We expect a 30 per cent drop in arrivals and that means a loss of about USD 1.5 billion in foreign exchange," Samaraweera said, adding that the country could take up to two years to fully recover from the deadly bombings which shattered a decade of peace in the country.