Foreign tourists wait to board a train at Fort railway station during a public holiday declared by the Sri Lankan government to avoid gatherings as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Colombo on March 16, 2020. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)
TOURIST arrivals to Sri Lanka have fallen by 31.5 per cent to 507,311 in the January-March quarter of 2020, with March suffering a 71 per cent drop, owing to COVID-19 and enforcement of travel restrictions, local media reported.
The novel coronavirus has claimed seven lives and infected 622 people in the island-nation which depends heavily on tourism revenue. The country stopped all passenger flights and ship services on March 18 in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the latest data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), March marked the third consecutive month of decline in tourist arrivals, by receiving 71,370 arrivals compared to 244,328 from a year earlier, reports said.
India, Britain, Russia, Germany and China were Sri Lanka’s top five international tourist generating markets in the first quarter. Europe accounted for 60 per cent of the tourist traffic in March 2020.
The Asia-Pacific region made up 34 per cent of the tourist footfalls followed by the North and South Americas at 4.6 per cent, the Middle East at 0.9 per cent and Africa at 0.5 per cent. There was marked decline in the numbers from all regions in comparison to last year.
Tourist arrivals from the Middle East fell by 85.7 per cent, from the Americas by 83.4 per cent, Africa recorded a decline of 77.9 per cent. The Asia-Pacific region registered a fall of 75.4 per cent and Europe a fall of 64.3 per cent.
While all countries registered a fall, arrivals from Kazakhstan recorded an increase of 79.7 per cent. China was among the top ten countries for tourist arrivals despite the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan city.
Sri Lanka tourism recently said it is readying a five-year global tourism promotion initiative to target an early revival of the island’s tourism sector following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tourism sector is the third largest foreign income earner for Sri Lanka, which contributes over 12 per cent of the GDP.