Sri Lanka is taking innovative steps to revitalise its tourism growth to levels pre-2019, with a pilot project that is launching in March where free visas will be issued to travellers from the following countries: Malaysia, India, Russia, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. The long-term goal set by this project is to see an estimated arrival of 5 million tourists in Sri Lanka by 2026.
Following a challenging period marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic crisis in 2022, Sri Lanka experienced a positive turn in 2023, welcoming 1 million visitors by September and concluding the year with a total of 1.5 million arrivals. Notably, India emerged as the leading contributor, with 200,310 arrivals, followed by Russia with 132,300. The encouraging trends are reflected in the tourism revenue, which soared to $1.3 billion for the first eight months of 2023, a substantial increase from the $833 million recorded during the same period in 2022, as reported by the central bank. Tourists flocking to luxury villas in Sri Lanka at properties such as Bentota No 1 will be very welcome over the next 3 years in particular, as it signals the end of a dark period in the country.