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Arrivals Drop Below 150,000 Mark in Sri Lanka Tourism

In April, Sri Lanka’s tourism sector experienced a slowdown, as the number of international visitors fell below the 200,000 mark for the first time this year, according to provisional data from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). Tourist arrivals in April totaled 148,867, indicating a significant decline from the 209,181 recorded in the previous month (March), although it marked a 41 percent increase from the corresponding month of the previous year.

Since December 2023, Sri Lanka had consistently attracted over 200,000 tourists each month, marking a significant milestone post-Covid pandemic outbreak. This positive momentum persisted for four consecutive months, but April saw a contraction, which is not unusual given it typically marks the onset of a slower period before a pickup in July.

However, while a decline was anticipated, tourism authorities attributed the steep drop in April to additional factors, notably the new visa system implemented from 17 April. This system has stirred controversy as it is perceived as more expensive and less convenient compared to the previous Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system.

In the monthly tourist arrivals update, the SLTDA indicated that arrival numbers have been “updated” in accordance with the new visa categories introduced by the Department of Immigration and Emigration, resulting in an increase in recorded arrivals. SLTDA Chairman Priantha Fernado stated that further clarification would be provided today after obtaining insights from immigration authorities regarding changes in categorization, such as Visiting Friends and Relatives, Business, MICE, etc.

In terms of visitor demographics, the top three source markets for Sri Lanka tourism in April were India, the Russian Federation, and the UK, contributing 18 percent, 10 percent, and 9 percent of total tourist arrivals, respectively.

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