International tourist numbers down 65% : Tourist arrivals to SL dropped by 60% in 1H’20

By Anjali Caldera | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 17 2020

By Anjali Caldera

The total number of international tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka for the period of January to August 2020 has declined by 60 per cent when compared with the tourist arrivals for the same period last year (2019).

As per the latest ‘Monthly Tourists Arrival Report’ (August) issued by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) total arrivals recorded from January to August 2019 was 1,267,737.Sri Lanka suspended tourist arrivals from all countries from 18 March 2020 to contain COVID-19. Thus no tourist arrivals have been recorded since April to August. The total tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka for the first quarter of 2020 (January to March) was 507,311.

Globally, the international tourist arrivals dropped by 65 per cent during the first half of 2020, reported the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). 

It is clear that this situation occurred as a result of the border closures and travel restrictions around the world to contain COVID-19.

Recent times a growing number of global destinations eased their travel regulations (53 per cent of destinations as per the latest reports by UNWTO).Nevertheless many governments still remain cautious.

The drop in arrivals shows that the lockdowns introduced during the first half of the year have had a massive impact on international tourism. At the same time, it has also affected on millions of jobs and businesses leaving them at stake.

According to UNWTO, the massive drop in international travel demand over the period January-June 2020 translates into a loss of 440 million international arrivals and about US$ 460 billion in export revenues from international tourism. This is around five times the loss in international tourism receipts recorded in 2009 amid the global economic and financial crisis.

Asia and the Pacific, the first region to feel the impact of COVID-19 on tourism was the hardest hit, with a 72 per cent fall in tourists for the six-month period. Europe was the second-hardest hit of all global regions, with a 66 per cent decline in tourist arrivals and the Americas -55 per cent, Africa and the Middle East both -57 per cent also had an unprecedented impact.

At the sub-regional level, North-East Asia (-83 per cent) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (-72 per cent) suffered the largest declines. 

However all world regions and sub-regions recorded declines of more than 50 per cent in arrivals in January-June 2020. 

The report further said, the contraction of international demand is also reflected in double-digit declines in international tourism expenditure among large markets. Major outbound markets such as the United States and China continue to be at a standstill, though some markets such as France and Germany have shown some improvement in June. 

Returning back to normalcy will completely depends on the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, the availability of a vaccine or treatment and the travellers’ confidence. Nonetheless as per the report the return to 2019 levels in terms of tourist arrivals would take between two to four years.


By Anjali Caldera | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 17 2020

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