Tourism has long been a key source of capital for Sri Lanka. In 2018 the tourism sector accounted for $4.4 billion — 5.6 percent of the country’s GDP. But this dropped to just 0.8 percent in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on global travel.
Sri Lanka has dubbed 2022 “Visit Sri Lanka Year,” and authorities are prioritizing the recovery of tourism as the country sinks deeper into its worst economic crisis since independence.
Assessing this year’s visitor data up to July, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority has identified its top primary markets and top potential markets, which include Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia is an important source for the Sri Lankan market, due to the size of its population and the high GDP per capita in the region,” Madhubhani Perera, public relations director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, told Arab News on Friday.
According to the bureau’s data, tourists from the Kingdom spend an average of $230 a day when they visit the island nation.
Even though the number of Saudi tourists dropped from 34,700 in 2018 to 4,015 up to July this year, the Kingdom is still considered “a top market in terms of arrivals,” Perera said.
Mohamed Sabry Bahaudeen, chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka, said the Saudi market has “the potential to grow” and is one of the main countries Sri Lanka should attempt to tap into to shore up its foreign currency inflows.
“Travelers from (Saudi Arabia) have, on average, one of the highest travel spends in the world,” he told Arab News.
The Tourism Promotion Bureau classifies tourists from the Kingdom as generally interested in wildlife and nature, and in “the possibility to enjoy holidays that have a green footprint, native birds, animals in their natural habitats.”
With its famous palm-fringed white beaches, seaside resorts offering water sports, and UNESCO cultural sites, Sri Lanka is also popular among travelers with kids. So the revival of family tourism is a top priority for travel operators.
“Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for Saudi tourists because they prefer family holidays and we have diverse attractions in the country, with rich cultural and historical activities here as well as (sports and leisure activities) to keep the whole family satisfied,” Bahaudeen said.
“I’m confident we will see many more visitors from Saudi Arabia making Sri Lanka their next holiday destination in the coming months.”