While the industry is slowly recovering, it has a long way to go.
We are nine months removed from the devastating Sri Lanka Easter bombings — which claimed the lives of nearly 259 people in the island nation last Easter — but the tourism industry has yet to fully recover from the April attack.
UCA News reports on data from the Sri Lankan ministry of tourism, which shows a downturn in tourist traffic from May to the end of 2019. The annual inflow was found to be about 400,000 fewer than it was in 2018.
While the industry took a big hit in May, the figures do show that tourism slowly recovered during the summer and autumn months. UCA cites government figures that show the largest downturn in June with 57% less tourist traffic, but by November it was only down by about 9.5%.
Industry professionals are confident, however, that their country’s tourism can make a full comeback. In fact, M. Shanthikumar, President of the Sri Lanka City Hotels Association, believes that the downward trend was directly due to a lack of promotional material. He told UCA News:
“If the promotions had commenced on time, soon after the April blast, we could have achieved at least last year’s numbers.”
Shanthikumar noted that it’s not just the small businesses that have been hurt, but even the “star class” hotels are feeling the sting.
2020 will offer the Sri Lankan ministry of tourism ample opportunity to repair the damage done by the 2019 bombings. On January 13, Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya outlined plans to increase tourism revenue by up to $10 billion by 2025. The plan includes a marketing campaign to raise awareness of Sri Lanka as a travel destination, as well as improvements to facilities provided to visitors.
ColomboPage, an internet news outlet from Sri Lanka, reported that President Gotabaya spoke of the effort in a press conference:
“Every step has to have immediate results. I am prepared to take the decisions that need to be taken for the country without fear. I expect the officials will be committed to distribute the outcome of the decisions to the country and the people. Any challenge can be overcome if there is a targeted program.”