Sri Lanka: “We will get to four million visitors by 2030”

Harin Fernando, the Minister of Tourism and Lands of Sri Lanka, looks hopeful that the future will be bright and busy for the destination as it looks to more than double its visitor numbers before the turn of the decade. 

Having already hit 1.1 million visitors in 2023, just shy of the 1.5 million target, Fernando spoke to Travel Bulletin about Sri Lanka’s new tourism rebrand campaign ‘They’ll come back for more’, promising tourists that they will leave a piece of themselves in the destination that will keep drawing them back. 

“Research has found that 33% of the travellers of Sri Lanka are repeaters and they come back. There is something significant about Sri Lanka, and it's about keep finding Sri Lanka, keep finding a place in your heart that you don't want to let go. 

“We have a few initiatives in place, one is a 21-day trail, 300 km long and the whole idea behind it was that you don’t have to do the 21 days at once. You’ll have four days out on the trail, staying in the mountains on an ancient mountain route that the Kings used to take, so it has a lot of significance. 

“There’s lots of history, lots of things that people can find, but what we wanted was, let’s say British and European tourists stay for a minimum of 10 to 14 days, they’ll do four days for this, and then holiday in other places in Sri Lanka, so when they go back to the cold weather and are sitting at their computers, all they’ll think about is going back.” 

Increased connectivity is the cornerstone for increasing visitation numbers, and Fernando highlighted the connectivity of each key market to the destination through strategic partnerships with airlines. 

“Emirates flies five times a day to Sri Lanka, Qatar Airways fly six times a day while Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines fly daily. We’ve targeted all the regions and it’s working well. India is our top market at the moment, then the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China, and all the numbers are looking promising. 

“Next year, we’re looking at a visitor target of 2.5 million, but I’m hopeful to reach to 2.3, which is our highest record set in 2018. I’m quite certain next year we will pass that, but for 2030, our final goal is to get up to four million. We’ve got new branded hotels coming, like Radisson Blu and Hilton, so all in all it looks good.”