By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): President Ranil Wickremesinghe spell out the short-term plans of the Government to develop tourism down south at a time where the island nation is regaining momentum in the covid-19 and economic crisis hit the tourism industry.
Government wants to take the whole stretch from Bentota to Hungama and the interior about seven to eight miles and make it one tourist zone and a special economic area, he claimed. .
Sri Lanka can develop tourism both for low rise closer to the beach and high rise buildings at the back,” he said during an inspection visit down south to inspect tourist hotels and challenges faced by the tourism industry stakeholders last Friday.
Sri Lanka tourism has rebounded at present from its set back since 2020 due to the covid -19 epidemic and it has recorded over 335,000 arrivals for the three months from January to the end of March.
Noting that the short-term plans to develop the tourism industry down south have already been discussed with MP Vajira Abeywardena, Ministers Kanchana Wijesekera, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Manusha Nanayakkara, he said Galle town, Balapitiya and Koggala will be developed for high rise buildings.
“There will have different committees and we want your help. The Government intends to get it off by the end of the year and go ahead in the next two years,” the President added.
As part of promoting Sri Lanka, he said the Government has decided to have Andree Bushell singing in Colombo next year and then to hold what is called the ‘Galle Consorto’, Galle Literary Festival, Modern Art and Jazz in Matara, fashion week and music in Unawatuna, beach disco in Hiriketiya and a baila carnival in Hikkaduwa in the early part of 2024.
“We can stretch it all out for over two weeks. The Government is keen on your ideas and support to take it further,” he told the tourists and industry stakeholders.
Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have exceeded 50,000 in the first 13 days reinforcing the industry’s optimism.
From 1 to 13 March, Sri Lanka received a record 53,838 tourists, whilst also pushing the year-to-date arrivals to 264,022 which is a significant rebound from 2022.
As per the latest data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), a total of 27,573 travellers arrived in the first week, and 26,265 in the second week, the provisional data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority showed.
The boost in arrivals was largely influenced by the Russian tourist, maintaining the lead ahead of India. Daily arrivals have also reached 4,141 compared to over 3,800 levels last year showing a significant improvement.
Russia accounted for 12,762 or 24% of the total tourists, followed by India with 7,348 or 14%, Germany with 4,289 or 9%, the UK with 3,937 or 8%, and the US with 2,716 or 5%.
The tourism industry has also managed to rebound with earnings exceeding $ 330 million in tandem with the boost in arrivals in 2023. Sri Lanka Tourism will soon launch its promotions on focused markets to make the country a year –round destination.
Against this backdrop, Sri Lanka will likely meet its arrivals target of 105,000 for March, whilst expressing confidence that the set target of 1.55 million visitors by the end 2023 is possible with an income of $ 2.88 billion.
Originally for 2023, Sri Lanka Tourism set an ambitious target of 1.5 million arrivals and an income of $ 5 billion by attracting high-end travellers who spend over $ 400 per day from the current $ 200.