Sri Lanka received almost 1.8 million tourists in 2015, up 17.8 percent from the previous year, with India the main origin but Chinese visitors showing the strongest growth supported by traditional European markets.

December arrivals grew 15.4 percent to 206,114 from a year ago, on the back of a 20 percent rise in November, bringing total annual arrivals to 1,798,380, according to provisional statistics from the tourism office.

Indian arrivals grew 30.3 percent to 316,247 in 2015 from the year before, with the number of visitors in December rising 35.5 percent to 35,437.

China was the next biggest origin for visitors to the island, with arrivals in 2015 surging 67.6 percent to 214,783, including those from Hong Kong and Macau.

Chinese arrivals grew 52.3 percent to 15,843 in December 2015 from a year ago, the data showed.

The number of visitors from traditional Western European markets grew 15.3 percent to 552,442 in 2015 from the year before.
Arrivals from the United Kingdom rose 12.3 percent to 161,845 in 2015, with December arrivals up 17.3 percent to 18,762 while the number of visitors from Germany rose 12.5 percent to 115,868.

But arrivals from Eastern Europe fell, owing to political and currency problems, with visitors from Russia down 11.3 percent to 61,846 in 2015 from the previous year.


Mobile boom in SAARC

Research predicts 1.3 billion active mobile subscribers by 2018

SAARC population is expected to raise from 1.7 billion in 2014 to 1.9 billion in 2018, with mobile penetration reaching to 208% of population in 2018.

The telecom access line in SAARC region (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka) will grow from 1.3 billion lines in 2014 to 1.6 billion active lines in 2018, according to forecasts by Dataxis. Dataxis estimates that the total telecommunication revenues will grow from USD 45 billion in 2014 to USD 59 billion in

The  mobile  subscribers  will  constitute  98%  of  the  total  number  of telecommunication  access lines,  as  predicted  for  2018.  Hence,  mobile  segment  with  growing  3G,  4G  and  mobile  data  will spur growth momentum in the SAARC telecommunications market. India and Pakistan will be the two leading markets in terms of mobile subscriber growth in 2018; both these markets together will contribute to 1.2 billion mobile subscribers by 2018. The rest of the SAARC regions will reach  a total of 304 million mobile subscribers during the same period.

3G subscribers will gain traction in these markets and will represent 24% of mobile subscribers in 2018 from a mere 10% in 2014.  Myanmar  after opening  up  the  market  to  foreign  players,  has witnessed  a  service  leap frog  to  3G;  skipping  traditional  2G  network.  Two international players Ooredoo  and  Telenor  launched  services  on  3G only  network,  while  the  regional  player  is  still upgrading services to 3G network.

The  uptake  of  4G  services  will  begin  to  increase  from  2016  onwards,  with  many  operators especially in India planning to launch 4G in 2016-17. 4G subscribers will grow to over 100 million in 2018 from a mere 0.4 million in 2014.

Fixed  line  subscribers  will  decline  further,  as  seen  globally  with  the  exception  of  Nepal  market.

Fixed line subscribers will reduce from 42 million in 2014 to 34 million in 2018.
Broadband subscribers were 30 million in 2014 and Dataxis estimates that the broadband sector will exceed the 40 million accesses mark in 2018, a figure which represents a 33% increase when compared to 2014. 8% of households will be broadband enabled in 2018 from 6% in 2014.

The  combined  revenues  of  mobile  services’, fixed  telephony  and  fixed  broadband  services, in SAARC will remain above USD 59 billion.


Remittances growth stagnant
Growth in Sri Lankan worker remittances, which has helped shore up the balance of payments, was virtually stagnant last year, raising concerns since much of it comes from the troubled Middle East.

Workers’ remittances grew by just 0.8 percent to 6,361.8 million US dollars in the
January-November 2015 period from a year ago, the Central Bank said in its report on the latest economic developments.

In 2014, worker remittances grew by 9.5 percent to 7,017.8 million dollars from the previous year.

Remittances from Sri Lankans employed abroad in recent years have exceeded earnings from tea and garment exports, the main agricultural and industrial exports, and have helped offset much of the persistent trade deficits.

Central Bank governor Arjuna Mahendran said reliance on remittances from the Middle East was a risk.

“About 50 percent of our remittances of seven billion dollars come from the Middle East,” he told a news conference. “ISIS attacks are causing instability there.”

Export growth prospects were also limited by the slowdown in global economic growth which were seen in lower demand for traditional exports like tea and rubber, Mahendran said.

But he said foreign exchange reserves were comfortable and the island’s anticipated five percent economic growth demonstrated the resilience of the economy.