For cash strapped Sri Lanka, the start to this year has been promising with foreign tourists beginning to arrive. And India was the second largest source of tourist traffic to the island nation in January, second only to Russia. In December, India topped the chart.
According to official figures, in January as many as 82,327 foreign tourists arrived in Sri Lanka compared to a mere 1682 arrivals recorded in the corresponding month last year. This is an increase of more than 40 times.
Tourists from Europe made up for 68.8 per cent of total arrivals in January, while those of Asia Pacific accounted for 23.7 per cent, data collation portal Trading Economics revealed.
The pick up in the tourism sector will come as a huge relief to Colombo, which will be required to make $1 billion external bond repayment in July. Its foreign reserves are currently around $3 billion.
After halting the visa on arrival facility for foreign tourists since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, the tourism-dependent island nation has now resumed the service. However, the facility will not be provided to travellers coming from 10 countries including Pakistan and Nepal.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, Sri Lanka’s tourism sector had shown some signs of slowing down in the wake of the Easter terror attacks in April 2019.
“Sri Lanka is back, and we are open for tourists. Our country has everything a post-COVID traveller is looking for. We have created a relaxed, bubble-free travelling for fully vaccinated travellers. Sri Lanka is ready to welcome you with the warmth of our hospitality,” Kimali Fernando, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said just after opening up.