Friday, March 16, 2012

Tourist arrivals in Feb. up 27%

By Cheranka Mendis

 Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 27% to 83,549 in February from a year earlier, continuing the growth momentum established in 2010.

 Data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority yesterday showed arrivals topping 169,423 during the first two months of the year, a 21% increase from the period a year ago.

The largest arrivals from a single country came from neighbouring India, which recorded an arrival base of 11,342 in February, a 12.6% increase from February 2011. Recognised as a traditional market, the UK, which is the second biggest market, recorded a decrease of 9% with just 8,762 tourists coming into the country. The country recorded a negative mark in January as well.

 Taking up the third, fourth and fifth positions were Germany, France and Russia, with arrivals of 7,654 (42.6%), 6,378 (27.7%) and 2,998 (96.7%).

 Regionally, Western Europe recorded the largest number of 38,364, a 23.4% increase from the same month of the previous year. Arrivals from South Asia were 15,504 (14.1%), East Asia 10,256, Eastern Europe 7,882 and North America 4,166. Tourists from Middle East numbered 3,675, Australia 3,204, Africa 379 and Latin America and the Caribbean 119.

 When assessing percentage wise growth for the month, the largest growth was seen from the Philippines, which marked 703.5% followed by Switzerland with a increase of 170.8% and Thailand with 128.2%.

 Individual numbers for the countries are 458 this month from 57 last February for Philippines; 2,345 from Switzerland from 866; and 543 for Thailand from 238.

 When totalling arrival figures for the first two months of the year, Sri Lanka’s biggest market was India (25,957) with UK (16,908), Germany (13,587), France (11,169) and Australia (6,763) following.

 In February, Sri Lanka hosted three key events that drew a number of international participants to the island, starting with Colombo International Tea Convention, Ironman 70.3 and Colombo Fashion Week.

 In February Sri Lanka also witnessed the groundbreaking ceremonies of two Shangri-La properties – one in Colombo facing the Galle Face Green and the other in Hambantota. ONYX Hospitality also started work on their Colombo property, while two more in Galle and Kandy are set to come up within the year.

 Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Nalaka Godahewa addressing the South Asia Sub Regional Tourism Forum conveyed more positivism to the industry, noting that the 1.6% contribution to GDP made by the sector last year was expected to grow rapidly in the years to come as the industry had been noted as a key economic driver in the country.

“According to WTO predictions, by end 2012 more than one billion people, almost 14% of the world population, is expected to cross international borders as tourists. In 2011, more than 980 million tourist arrivals were recorded across the world and 12 million of them came to the South Asian region, contributing 6% of the region’s GDP,” he revealed.

 The UNWTO forecast also predicts South Asia attracting 18.8 million tourists by 2020, of which Sri Lanka will get a share of three million.

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