SL to target ‘digital tourists’

  • Immigration/Emigration Dept. to grant long-term visas, tax relief 

BY Dinitha Rathnayake 

The digital tourism industry is emerging as a new worldwide tourism sector with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau also considering attracting digital tourists to Sri Lanka.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga stated that Sri Lanka hopes to promote the digital tourism industry as a new way to contribute significantly to the national economy by uplifting the crisis-ridden tourism industry through the earning of more foreign exchange.

Digital tourists are tourists who make a living by using digital technology to promote the tourist attractions of a certain destination. These digital travellers stay in their chosen tourist destinations for months or years, thus generating a high amount of foreign exchange circulating in the country.

Many of the world’s leading tourist destinations have taken steps to promote the digital tourism industry, with Chiang Mai in Thailand, Lisbon in Portugal, Medellin in Colombia, and Bali in Indonesia currently attracting digital tourists.

Digital tourist attraction can be introduced as one of the major promotion initiatives that can be implemented in accordance with the health regulations in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ranatunga said.

He further stated that steps in this regard will be taken after the assessment and recommendation of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) while the Immigration and Emigration Department will take steps to issue long-term visas and grant tax relief.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism industry accounted for 334 million jobs, and about $ 9.2 trillion of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) before the pandemic. However, the latest reports show that the global tourism and travel sector dropped to $ 4.7 trillion after suffering a loss of almost $ 4.5 trillion in 2020, with a significant drop in the GDP by 49.1%, compared to 2019. In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost across the sector globally.