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ECONOMYNEXT – Tour operators in Sri Lanka are eyeing new markets like Myanmar, Iran and other Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries as the island nation expects a tourism boom in 2023.
Aitken Spence deputy general manager Niranjan Wickramasinghe told EconomyNext that the country is currently seeing a large number of Russian and Ukrainian tourists visiting the island, with over 5,000 Russians arriving in May. Russia is one of the ten most important source markets for tourism in Sri Lanka, along with countries such as India, Great Britain, Germany, France and China.
“This year we will also have Myanmar. We started a while ago, just before COVID-19. We have already started in Iran and are also looking at other markets. A significant number are coming from Iran as it is a developing segment,” Wickramasinghe said.
Other operators are looking for new markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but some are still focusing on existing markets.
“We are mainly targeting markets in the Netherlands, Germany and India,” Chamidi Weerarathne, managing director of sales and reservations at Eastern Hotel Developers, told Economy Next.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was hit hard after the Easter attacks in 2019, followed by the pandemic in 2020 and the currency crisis and resulting protests in 2022
The troubled island nation’s budget-friendly tourism packages remain affordable for many of its source markets. From January to May, the number of tourist arrivals from Russia was 99,820, accounting for a 20 percent share.
The island has seen 57,142 arrivals in May so far and 498,319 since January. (Colombo/May 27, 2023)