Tax concessions and incentives offered to tourism in this budget will help fast track development of the industry and achieve targets set out for next year, said an official of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). The budget proposed a tax reduction on all tourism related businesses from 15% to 12%, a levy of US$ 20 per bed on all five star hotels which charge less than US$ 125 per night from 2011 and reduction in duties on passenger transportation vehicles by 25 percent. The current budget has focused on developing tourism which benefitted from peace dividends. Tourism has renounced since mid last year bringing the much needed confidence to the industry.
Tourist arrivals this year recorded a 50% growth during the first half compared to the same period in 2009. A month-on-month growth was recorded throughout the year and the projection is that arrivals would reach around 600,000 by year end. The focus of Sri Lanka tourism during the next couple of years should be on infrastructure improvement rather than achieving numbers. The industry is keen on attracting high spenders who will be more responsible. Malaysia, The Maldives, Singapore and China have the highest number of tourists during the year, in the region. Tourists to Sri Lanka last year numbered 448,000.
Tourism experts said a consistent plan and aggressive marketing are vital to promote the country as a destination to the global traveller. The 'Visit 2011' campaign to attract more visitors and position the country in the world tourism map is expected to boost tourism which is being geared to record 2.5 million travellers to the country. Eight products symbolising the eight letters of the country will be promoted with the theme 'Eight wonderful experiences in eight wonderful days'. The beaches, heritage, scenic beauty, festivals, body and mind wellness, wild life, sports and adventure and essence of life will be promoted through the campaign. The authenticity, bio-diversity, compactness and being an island offers Sri Lanka a unique and distinct advantage to market tourism. The government plan is to make tourism a US$ 1 billion industry as fast as possible. Poor infrastructure has been the main constraint to expedite growth in tourism.
Sri Lanka Tourism has planned to build 30,000 hotel rooms within the next five years. Currently over 2,000 rooms are being built in properties across the country. Around 10,000 rooms will be built during the next year and plans are to have nearly 45,000 rooms to accommodate visitors, according to the SLTDA officials.Sri Lanka Tourism is focused on developing the road network and resuming float planes to improve domestic transportation. The SLTDA is identifying locations in the North to be developed as tourism zones, however there are less improvement takes place in Eastern Srilanka, according to the officials. The locations will be handed over to the private sector to develop for the tourism infrastructure.