International tourism in Sri Lanka recoups in 2022 albeit Omicron risk

Local tourism body expects to see one million tourists visiting the country this year

Sigiriya (pictured here), a UNESCO world heritage site, is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. SylvainB/Shutterstock

In the first 10 days of 2022, approximately 30,000 tourists arrived in Sri Lanka, with the majority flying from Europe and India, reported Arab News. 

With its UNESCO-protected cultural and architectural sites, surf spots, top-rated beaches, tropical climate, and tea plantation destinations, global tourists have had their sights on Sri Lanka pre-pandemic, more so when Lonely Planet dubbed it as the top country to visit in 2019.  

Since the 26-year conflict ceased, The Guardian noted that the number of tourists travelling to the country surged from 447,890 in 2009 to a historic high of 2.3 million in 2018. 

However, plans of doubling the numbers ended abruptly in March 2020 when Covid restrictions were imposed around the globe. Fortunately, the improving situation worldwide—with vaccinations on overdrive—has ignited the tourism sector to release the “Visit Sri Lanka Year” scheme where they aim to generate USD10 billion by 2025. 

If the start of the new year is any indication, roughly 30,000 tourists visiting from Germany, India, Russia, Ukraine, and the UK, Sri Lanka tourism is on the right path to achieve its objective, regardless of the global concern surrounding the highly infectious Omicron variant.  

Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Kimarli Fernando told Arab News: “In Europe, there is a thought process of relaxing and dealing with the virus. EU countries treat COVID-19 like the flu, suggest people get used to living with it, and treat the virus as an endemic disease. So, this will not pose a problem.” 

She shared that they are expecting around one million tourists to visit Sri Lanka this year, half of its highest tally since 2018. Fernando also rejected assumptions of the country going back into lockdown because of the new variant, adding, “I am absolutely confident we will reach these numbers.” 

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Out of the 23 million people residing in Sri Lanka, nearly 63 percent have been fully vaccinated. Individuals working in the tourism industry have also been set as priority to receive jabs to support the reopening of the travel industry and recovery of the economy. 

Aside from vaccinations, Fernando revealed that they have audited all hotels in the country to check whether the staff have been trained to properly deal with the outbreak. 

She added: “Tour guides, drivers — they are all trained. In public, everyone is wearing their masks. Everyone is diligent, in terms of sanitising and adhering to health precautions. We’ve never relaxed those rules, so we do not see an issue arising.” 

The Property Report editors wrote this article. For more information, email: [email protected].