According to data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) yesterday, October arrivals were 118,743 as against 153,123 a year ago while the cumulative January to October haul was almost 1.5 million as against 1.8 million in the corresponding period of 2018.
The SLTDA last week revised the annual projection to 1.9 million from the previous forecast of 2.1 million, with the largest source market for tourists in October being India, followed by China and the United Kingdom.
Sri Lanka originally planned for 2.5 million tourist arrivals but after the Easter Sunday terror attacks, the SLTDA revised the target in August, saying that it hoped to get around 2-2.1 million tourists compared to the 2.3 million visitors recorded in 2018, representing a 10% decline in arrivals.
Following the Easter attacks, tourist arrivals slumped by 70.8% to a record low of 37,802 in May. The change in arrivals between 2018 and 2019 was 57% in June, 46.9% in July, 28.3 % in August, 27.2% in September and 22.5% in October.
Though chasing growth, officials took comfort from the fact that the pace of decline was waning.
SLTDA Chairman Johanne Jayaratne said it was indeed refreshing to see arrival numbers growing since April and that they were just 20.7% behind last year’s arrival rate for the same period.
“We anticipate the numbers growing further in the months of November through March considering that’s the peak season for Sri Lanka. By January we should be able to analyse the exact percentage of decline from a volume perspective. However, the financial recovery will take longer. Our projected revenue for 2019 is estimated to be around $ 3.5-$ 3.6 billion,” he said.
SLTDA said that even though the numbers were lower than those of previous years, there was a similar monthly trend which indicates that seasonal market behaviour has not changed.
The industry has been critical over the delay in the launch of an aggressive public relations and marketing campaign in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. The declaration of elections, although unavoidable, was another of its concerns.