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SL tourist arrivals expected to top 1.5 million in 2023

By Nethmi Rajawasam (Economy Next)

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals are expected to top 1.5 million in 2023, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority Priyantha Fernando said.

Sri Lanka welcomed its millionth tourist for the year on September 26.

“Looking at the targets we had set for 2023, we are ahead of targets,” Fernando said at an event marking World Tourism Day.

“We have achieved one million tourists up to now.”

An initial target for 1,550,000 tourists set for 2023 will be exceeded, he said.

In April 2023, officials said they were planning to revise the arrival target to 2.0 million for 2023, based on strong first quarter arrivals.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization cited its own tourism barometer on the global tourism sector in May and said that international arrivals reached 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023.

In 2023, an estimated 235 million tourists across the world travelled internationally for the first three months.  

“International tourism is well on its way to returning to pre-pandemic levels, with twice as many people travelling during the first quarter of 2023 than in the same period of 2022,” the body said in a statement.

In the first 20 days of September Sri Lanka welcomed 75,222 tourists, according to official data.

Up to August 2023 Sri Lanka was estimated to have earned 1,304 million US dollars from tourism, up 56 percent from a year earlier according to tourism survey data.

Fernando said the sector hoped to the largest foreign exchange earner for the economy by 2027.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in a statement released in May said, “International tourism receipts grew back to hit the USD1 trillion mark in 2022, growing 50 percent in real terms compared to 2021, driven by the important rebound in international travel. International visitor spending reached 64 percent of pre-pandemic levels (-36 percent compared to 2019, measured in real terms).”

The UNWTO Panel of Experts claimed the economic situation to be the main wavering factor affecting international tourism in 2023, with high inflation and rising oil prices translating into higher transport and accommodation costs.

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