Sri Lanka Tourism (SLT) has partnered with Yingke Travel, a Chinese tour operator and Green Leaves Leisure, a Sri Lankan travel entity, to promote Sri Lanka as a destination for Chinese travellers with the aim of attracting over 300,000 Chinese visitors by the end of this year.
The Memorandum of Understanding for the partnership was inked at a ceremony in Colombo on Tuesday. Sri Lanka Tourism officials will be travelling to China this month to sign agreements with Chinese travel companies and explore opportunities to boost the destination.
Officials of Yingke who were present at the media briefing, said they target 100,000 Chinese visitors to Sri Lanka from this month to next May and then double the number in the ensuing years.
“There has been growing interest among Chinese travellers on Sri Lanka which is a hospitable and lovely country to visit,” an official from Yingke Travel said.
The number of Chinese visitors to Sri Lank has increased from 24,275 in January to 35,929 in February and then dipped to 23,101 in March.
However, according to Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga, the number of visitors from China has shown a marked improvement with the upgrading of facilities and more hotels and rest houses being built across the country.
Sri Lanka Tourism is targeting over 2.5 million visitors bringing in US$ 4 billion in foreign exchange to the country this year. However, according to statistics the tourism industry has managed only to increase the number of travelers by around one million since 2014.
Sri Lanka ended last year with 2.1 million visitors little over the previous year’s figure but much below the initial target of attracting 2.5 million visitors. However, according to the Minister the number of visitors this year will be over 2.5 million provide no unexpected events take places such as floods and dengue which affected arrivals last year.
The number of arrivals during the first three months this year from all countries has increased, with 219,000 in January, 197,000 in February and 253,000 in March.
“We expect things to be better and brighter this year for tourism as the promotional campaign is about to take off within a couple of months which will position Sri Lanka as a destination for travel and leisure in the global map,” the minister said.
However, when queried as to why there had been a delay to launch the tourism promotion campaign the Minister said its better late than never and added that there would be always obstacles on the way to achieve goals. “We must focus on getting down Chinese travellers who travel all over the world. The partnership with the Chinese and the local travel company will boost the Chinese market which has been growing steadily. There will be trickle down benefits to the ancillary industries with the increase in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals,” Amaratunga said.
Sri Lanka Tourism statistics show that Sri Lanka recorded over 268,000 visitors from China last year with China emerging as the second largest market for tourism in Sri Lanka. The number of arrivals from China in December last year was over 19,000 with 50 Chinese couples celebrating their weddings in Colombo in the same month.
According to the Minister, a similar number of Chinese couples are expected in Colombo to mark their weddings this year as well.
On the safety of visitors to Sri Lanka, the Minister said measures have been taken to ensure there would be no recurrence of the Kandy and Mirissa events.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has commenced registering properties in Mirissa.
The Coastal Conservation Department officials at a media briefing last month said unauthorised constructions along the coastal belt would be demolished. However, Provincial Councils Minister objected to the measure which would deprive the entrepreneurs the opportunity of making a living.
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