By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka Tourism has got off to a good start in 2012 with January arrivals reaching a record 85,874, up by 15.7% over the corresponding month of last year.
For the month of January the largest arrivals from a single country came from neighbouring India which records 14, 615 tourists. This shows a 6% increase from January 2011.
UK, which is the second biggest market, recorded a decrease of 14.2% with only 8,162 tourists coming into the country. Germany follows UK as the third largest contributor with 5,933 tourists followed with France coming in as the forth with 4,782.
Regionally, Western Europe recorded the largest number – 36,497, an 11.9% increase from the same month of the previous year. Arrivals from South Asia was 19,209 (7.3%), East Asia 9,334, Eastern Europe 6,838 and North America 5,177. Tourists from Australia were 4,213, Middle East 3,950, Africa 345 and Latin America and the Caribbean 311.
The January figure is an all time high for a month but the Government was vying for the magical 100,000 number earlier on. At the middle of the month Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena hinted that arrivals could reach the six figure mark as they topped 60,000 by half-way mark in January.
However the optimism was internally corrected after authorities realised that initial estimates had mistakenly accounted for those who had applied for online visa on the premise that they will make their visits in January itself.
Sources from the Immigration and Emigration said that by 31 January, 56,339 arrived in Sri Lanka under the ‘tourist’ tab while 4,335 came as business travellers. Sources stated that 4,241 tourists came from Maldives while 1,156 came from Singapore, two visa-exempted nations.
The online system has made the visa process and the recording and collection of data more efficient.