Sri Lanka is starting to look like its old self. Now recovering from the 2004 tsunami and resolving a decades-long conflict, the country is welcoming record numbers of visitors. It may be expected to shortly run out of hotel capacity as it experiences an unprecedented boom.
The occupancy rates of the hotels which were mainly hit by the three decade of war saw a remarkable growth. The overall occupancy rate hit an average of 48.4 percent in 2009 when compared with the corresponding period of 43 percent. Further the occupancy rates hit an all time high for the first three months of 2010 at an average of 82 percent. Same time the average spending per tourist increased to US $ 781 a 7 percent increase in 2009 compare with previous years.
The latest generation of travellers have been quick to pick up on Sri Lanka’s affordable beach and culture combination. The healthy trend would continue in the future too. The positive sentiment due to peace and the removal of travel advisories help this healthy trend to continue.
Sri Lanka’s tourist infrastructure can handle up to 800,000 visitors a year, comfortably meeting expected demand this year of 500,000. However within the next two years, visitor arrivals are expected to double and then double again two years later to 2 million. There are suggestions that unless the country embarks on a hotel construction boom it will fail to meet demand. Approximately 2,000-3,000 new hotel rooms must be constructed during 2010. The country aims to add approximately 20,000 hotel rooms in the next six years to cater to the anticipated boom in tourism. You can see the hotel companies begun renovating and upgrading hotels in Colombo and the war-torn eastern province and same time there are new projects to build tourist accommodation in the Northern Province to meet the tourism boom.
The Tourism Development Authority has already approved the construction of new hotels in Passekudah and Batticaloa to promote eastern beaches as a tourist destination. Further, new zones which are being developed as tourist hotel sites are, Kuchchaveli north of the eastern port and five islands in Kalpitiya, which would be similar to the Maldives. As developing tourism related infrastructure facilities, the Government plans to build a domestic airport at Uchchamunai, an under-water amusement park in Kandakkuliya, a golf course in Dutch Bay, a race course and a cricket ground in Kalpitiya. Fishing Tourism, Leisure Tourism and Ayurvedic Tourism are some of the concepts the Government is planning to implement to attract the global appeal.
The top five contributors to Sri Lankan Tourism in 2009 were India, UK, the Maldives, Germany and Australia. This brought the earnings of nearly Rs 40,133 million which is equivalent to US$ 350 mn an increase of 8 percent over 2008.The industry is hoping to attract 2.5 million visitors by 2016, up from 450,000 in 2009. It is also hoping to earn US$2 billion annually in tourist revenue by 2016, up from US$350 million last year.
It is a noteworthy feature that new source markets will feature in the list. Meanwhile it is necessary to carry out brand building and image enhancement activities. Brand development is needed to improve credibility, dependability, believability and acceptability in the minds of the tourists.