At least 21 dead in Somalia hotel siege, many hostages freed
COLOMBO: Travel industry players in Sri Lanka are hoping to attract more tourists from Saudi Arabia as the island nation grapples with a lingering crisis in its tourism economy.
Tourism has long been a key source of capital for Sri Lanka. In 2018, the tourism sector accounted for $4.4 billion, or 5.6% of the country’s GDP. But that figure fell to just 0.8% in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic curbed global travel.
Sri Lanka has dubbed 2022 the “Year of Visit Sri Lanka” and authorities are prioritizing tourism recovery as the country sinks into its worst economic crisis since independence.
Assessing this year’s visitor data through July, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority has identified its top core and potential markets, including Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia is an important source for the Sri Lankan market, due to its size of population and the high GDP per capita in the region,” said Madhubhani Perera, Public Relations Director of the Tourism Promotion Bureau. of Sri Lanka, to Arab News on Friday. .
According to data from the bureau, tourists from the Kingdom spend an average of $230 per day when visiting the island nation.
Even though the number of Saudi tourists fell from 34,700 in 2018 to 4,015 as of July this year, the Kingdom is still considered “a top market in terms of arrivals”, Perera said.
Mohamed Sabry Bahaudeen, president of the Association of Travel Agents of Sri Lanka, said the Saudi market has “potential for growth” and is one of the key countries that Sri Lanka should try to tap into to consolidate its foreign currency inflows.
“Travellers (from Saudi Arabia) have, on average, one of the highest travel spenders in the world,” he told Arab News.
The Tourism Promotion Bureau classifies tourists to the Kingdom as generally interested in wildlife and nature, and “the opportunity to enjoy green footprint holidays, native birds, animals in their natural habitats”.
With its famous palm-lined white-sand beaches, resorts offering water sports, and UNESCO-listed cultural sites, Sri Lanka is also popular with travelers with children. The revival of family tourism is therefore an absolute priority for tour operators.
“Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for Saudi tourists because they prefer family vacations and we have various attractions in the country, with rich cultural and historical activities here as well as (sports and leisure activities) to satisfy all the family,” Bahaudeen said. .
“I am confident that we will see many more visitors from Saudi Arabia making Sri Lanka their next vacation destination in the months to come.”