Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 9.7 percent in August 2012 to 79,456 from a year earlier with Western Europe and East Asian growing but the top market India falling in absolute terms, official data showed.
During the eight months to August, arrivals rose 15.8 percent to 622,661. Sri Lanka is expecting a little over a million visitors this year.
Arrivals from Western Europe rose 8.7 percent to 32,656 in August from a year earlier, despite an economic downturn in the region, data from Sri Lanka’s tourist promotion office showed.
French tourists rose 31.4 percent to 5,473, German visitors rising 27.5 percent to 6,162 but visitors from UK falling 7.4 percent to 11.558.
Arrivals from Eastern Europe rose 58.4 percent to 3,953 with Russia rising 18.5 percent to 1,345 and Ukraine surging 146 percent to 1,131.
Middle Eastern visitors fell 3.9 percent to 4,950.
Arrivals from East Asia rose 16.9 percent to 11,648 with China up 120 percent to 2,360 and Japan up 12.4 percent to 3,302.
But South Asia grew marginally by 1.3 percent to 16,345 with India, Sri Lanka’s largest generating market falling 12.6 percent to 11,242. Maldives arrivals rose 83.2 percent to 3,533 and visitors from Pakistan rose 18.7 percent to 864.
In the eight months to August Indian arrivals were up only 1.0 percent to 108,232. During the first eight months of 2011 Indian visitors were up 45 percent to 107,201. In August 2011 alone Indian visitors rose 38.9 to 12,857.
India became Sri Lanka’s top tourism generating market after visa restrictions were lifted by Sri Lanka about a decade ago, restoring freedoms that existed before Western practices aimed at reducing human freedoms were imported to the region.
Sri Lanka re-introduced visas for Indian visitors at the beginning of this year, as visa on arrival facility for many countries were ended amid rising nationalism in the island despite the end of a 30-year war.
The electronic travel authorization process has eased the entry for citizens of some countries by eliminating paper work and cutting processing time.
India’s rupee has also weakened, making overseas travel more expensive, though Sri Lanka’s rupee has also fallen about 16 percent over the past several months.
Unlike the Association of South Asian Nations which created a visa free region triggering a tourism and aviation boom, the South Asia Association of Regional Co-operation has not been able to provide significant freedoms to the region’s citizens.
Sri Lanka however unilaterally lifted visas for Indian visitors about decade ago, with officials also persuading India to allow private Indian carriers to fly to the island, in a ground breaking regional liberalization of aviation.
Visas came into wide use after World War II ending centuries of travel and immigration freedoms enjoyed by human beings around the world.
Ironically, countries which pioneered the imposition travel restrictions in Europe have now created a visa free region as part of restoring the four freedoms -good, capital, service, and people – that were lost due to rising nationalism, fascism and socialism in the region. (LBO)