Dr. Rohantha Athukorala

Sri Lanka must stop chasing visitor arrival numbers but focus on attracting the $250 per day guests into the country if we are to make the industry financially viable, the Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Dr. Rohantha Athukorala said last week. His comments came a day after The Nation Gain in a lead story last week reported that despite tourist arrival numbers increasing comparative to previous periods, the increase was not trickling down to niche and upmarket tourist hotel operators, according to industry experts.

Addressing the the SKAL EGM as the keynote speaker at the Galadari Hotel, Athukorala said that revenue growth being flat in the formal sector was worrying given that Central Bank confirms the tourism receipts at a 14% growth.

Visitor arrivals at the end of July was up 16.8%, crossing the 1 million visitor arrival mark with July recording a 31.2% growth recent statistics.

Dr. Athukorala said his logic of targeting the minimum threshold traveller of $250 was that given the high cost of construction and labor in Sri Lanka, “unless we have a hotel property that can attract a $250 it will not be

financial iy viable”.
“If not the owner will have to wait for asset enhancement alone which is not a strong business model that can be marketed for a potential investor he commented. Whilst we can do all the focussed B2B marketing on a private-public partnership for us to attract a $250 tourist Sri Lanka needs a strong brand building communication campaign targeting UK/Europe traveller who nets in a 22% of the net proceeds whilst though the Asian travellers account for a higher footfall due to India and China the revenue to the country is only 13% which clearly justifies the argument for the core markers to be Europe.

The sad story is that for the last three years we have neglected the western markets by pumping in a colossal Rs.860 million to China alone which needs to be balanced if we are to name the industry financially attractive said Dr Athukorala who also has experience of serving the 12 billion dollar Export Development Board and the Sri Lanka Tea Board for the last five years that gives him an insight to the cross sectoral policy issues the country needs to address.  The reason for the informal sector booming was the online travel agencies driving growth explained the Chairman.