Despite the impediment due to the partial closure of the international airport during the first quarter and withdrawal of the national carrier from key markets, Sri Lanka has set a target of 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2017.
Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga at a media briefing yesterday said Sri Lanka, hoping to attract 2.5 million tourists this year, will launch long-delayed Rs. 800 million international tourism promotions campaign in June this year.
He said the partial closure of the international airport from Jan 6- April 6, during the peak tourism season, for the renovation of its runway is a tremendous setback but expressed hope that the tourism promotions campaign and word of mouth of tourists who visited the country in 2016 would help to achieve the target.
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals in 2016 rose 14.0 percent from the year before with the arrival of 2,050,832 tourists although lower than the target of 2.2 million for the year.
Minister Amaratunga said the number was the highest ever. While it bodes well for the industry the numbers were far below that of competing destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, which draw 25-30 million tourists annually, the Minister said.
Earnings from tourism increased to US$ 3.5 billion in 2016 from US$ 2.8 billion in 2015, the Minister said.