Colombo: Tourism has brought a record US$3.5 billion to Sri Lanka’s exchequer in 2016, seven years after the end of a devastating civil war, a government minister said.
But industry sources expressed that the skepticismboom could be short-lived as planned airport closures forced the cancellation of many international flights.
Tourism on the Indian Ocean island suffered heavily during a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009, but has been recovering in recent years.
John Amaratunga, Minister for Tourism, said Sri Lanka had 2.05 million arrivals in 2016, short of its target of 2.2 million, but still the best the island so far recorded.
The minister said he hoped for a further rise in 2017, but industry figures warned tourism could fall by 30 per cent, hit by the daytime closure of the Colombo international airport for three months for a runway upgrade.
“The drop will be because of the partial airport closure and (national carrier) Sri Lankan stopping direct flights to France and Germany,” a senior tourism official said.
International airlines have reduced flights to Colombo during the airport refurbishment that is expected to continue until April. Sri Lanka’s loss-making national carrier Sri Lankan has said it will lose US$50 million as a result of flight cancellations.