By Susitha Fernando
Colombo, Jan 4 | Although the Sri Lankan tourism sector is still struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the island nation received the highest number of foreign tourists in December 2021, with majority of the holidaymakers from India.
Despite shutting of borders in the wake of the health crisis for several months, a total of 194,495 tourists arrived in the island nation, with over one-fourth of them from India, said the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).
The SLTDA said that India topped the list with 56,268 tourists, followed by Russia (16,268) and the UK (16,646), Germany (12,442), Ukraine (7,037), France (6,549), the US (6,124), Kazakhstan (5,754), Canada (5,079) and China (2,417).
After witnessing two Covid-19 waves, Sri Lanka’s tourism was further ravaged by the third wave of the pandemic in April 2021.
However one of the top tourist destinations in the world, Sri Lanka gradually opened for holidaymakers and a number of promotions were introduced in connection.
To get more visitors from the neighbouring nation, flag carrier SriLankan Airlines launched a ‘Buy One, Get One Free Ticket’ campaign for Indian tourists.
The airlines also started several weekly flights to Chennai and Mumbai, while operations commenced to Bengaluru, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Trivandrum, and Cochin.
In August 2021, the country opened its borders for fully vaccinated travellers and the next month it also removed the mandatory on-arrival PCR tests.
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, the third highest foreign income earner, suffered a massive blow with the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks targeting Christian churches and five-star hotels in April 2019, killed nearly 250 people, including foreigners.
The country which was recognized as Lonely Planet’s number 1 travel destination in October 2019 was planning to attract 2.5 million tourists compared to its 2018 figure 2.3 million.
Sri Lanka recorded over 1.9 million tourist arrivals in 2019 earning around $3.5 billion.
As the pandemic raged, the sector further suffered in 2020, with the figure plunging to 570,000.