Earnings from the tourism sector grew 50 percent year on year to USD 451 mn during the first seven months of 2011, Central Bank data showed.
July 2011 earnings were up 46 percent from a year back to USD 81.3 mn while the tourism industry brought in USD 575 mn revenue in 2010.
“If you really focus on tourism it can be the biggest foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka,” said Anura Lokuhetty, president of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka.
The country aims to lure approximately 800,000 tourists to the island this year, but Lokuhetty says the number could go up to at least 850,000 tourists.
He said the country currently competes with regional rivals Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia which have experienced consistently higher tourist numbers.
In doing so Lokuhetty advocates focused marketing of the island’s attractions to provide an edge over rival markets.
“One thing that should be seriously considered is that adequate destination marketing is carried out,” said Lokuhetty.
“There is fierce competition,” he added.
Sri Lanka is targeting 2.5 million annual tourist arrivals by 2016, bringing in estimated annual earnings of USD 3 bn as a major boom is witnessed in the tourism trade following the end of ethnic conflict in 2009.
“If you look at Sri Lanka’s potential for tourism this target is achievable, we are on the correct path” said Lokuhetty, adding that it would create 350,000 additional job opportunities in the island.