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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is seeing a tourism upturn mostly from last minute bookings and forward bookings are just starting to pick up, industry officials said as the worst currency crisis triggered by the country’s intermediate regime central bank wanes.

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed in 2022 after two years of money printing to target an artificially low interest rates, triggering sovereign default, fuel and power shortages, social unrest and political instability, and dealing a blow to tourism.

Returning stability was too late for solid winter season bookings.

“The summer inquiries are coming up,” Salini Deerasooriya, Senior manager of Sales and Marketing, at The Argyle, an upmarket hotel in Hatton, Sri Lanka said

“After the crisis, there is a pick up around 45 pct – 50 pct and the inquiries are all last-minute bookings. It is not like those days.

“The trend has changed even though we can’t find a proper forecast for next month or the month after.”

Sri Lanka welcomed 194,506 tourists in December 2022 and January 2023, compared to 470,097 in December 2019 and January 2020, before the economic crisis and Coronavirus pandemic.

In the first 12 days of March 2023, Sri Lanka has welcomed 76,247 tourists.

Priantha Fernando, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said China will start picking up by next month.

“But the numbers are increasing as you can see from Europe, the percentage-wise they are contributing,” he said.

Sri Lanka got 67,855 passengers from Europe in January, and 72,957 in February.

Hoteliers say there is a drop in high end travellers.

“Even though the statics are there we see a drop in arrivals for our properties especially the high end ones,” Nadeera Fernando, Head of Sales at W15 Collection,

“Our arrivals from inbound travellers (high end travellers) has been less compared to last year,”

M. Shanthikumar, President of the Hotel Association of Sri Lanka says there is a slight increase in forward bookings.

“So we have to wait and see the materialisation depending on the country’s situation,” he said. “But as an industry we are positive that the tourist arrival will increase.”

Russia, India, Germany, UK and Israel had generated traffic, hoteliers said.

“Destination Management Companies (DMC) as per their feedback is trying to operate a few charter flights” Araliya, Cluster Director General Manager, Ruwan Kalugala said. (Colombo/March 24/2023)

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