Chinese tourists streaming back with free visa programme

By Uwin Lugoda

By the end of the first week of the Government’s new free visa on arrival programme, Chinese tourist arrivals witnessed the highest growth, suggesting that the former second biggest tourism source market may regain its position this month.

Around 3,099 Chinese tourists entered the country from 1 to 7 August, and if the trend continues, there would be a growth rate of 70-80% from the 6,926 Chinese tourists who entered the country in July.

A total of 3,496 Chinese tourists visited Sri Lanka in June, which was a significant improvement from the arrival figure of 1,589 recorded in May.

China has long been Sri Lanka’s second biggest tourist generator with 268,952 tourists arriving in Sri Lanka in 2017. However, the arrival numbers from China took a massive hit following the Easter Sunday attacks and the resultant travel advisories as well as security concerns.

During the first week of the free visa programme, the country saw the overall arrival of 34,538 tourists from 48 countries. The total arrival figure for July was 115,701. However, the tourism numbers are expected to increase as the free visa programme receives greater attention from international markets and travel plans are made weeks and months in advance, especially for distant destinations.

Followed by China, Sri Lanka’s biggest tourist generator India looks likely to see the second highest growth rate of around 60% in August and has already seen 7,274 arrivals from 1 to 7 August, while its total July arrivals stood at 18,309 tourists.

France recorded 2,798 arrivals last week, compared to 7,142 arrivals in July.

China now moved up the arrival rankings from the fifth spot in July to the third spot in the first week of August, while both India and France remained the same at the first and forth spots, respectively. The UK and Germany also retained their positions in the top five tourism markets with 4,587 and 2,249 tourists, respectively.

The free visa on arrival facility was implemented by the Government of Sri Lanka on 1 August for 48 countries in Australasia, Europe, and North America. The initiative is set to last six months in order to boost tourism in the country.

Initially scheduled to be implemented in April, the programme was suspended following the Easter attacks.

The Government targets to bring down around 2.5 million tourists this year through this programme.