Sri Lanka, a mesmerising land like no other, is the Pearl in the Indian Ocean. This year on 4 February, the small nation celebrates its 73rd Independence Day.
Formerly known as Ceylon, the isle was under direct British rule from 1815 to 1948. Located at the Southern Indian tip, and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka’s history is intertwined with that of its neighbours. Its borders the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding regions comprise of South Asia, South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean.
This beautiful isle is blessed with a diverse landscape, ranging from luscious highland plains to pristine sandy beaches. The island covers a square area of 65,610 km and possesses a high level of bio-diversity and wildlife resources. Sri Lanka is much loved by visitors as an exotic paradise mesmerising for its natural habitat, flora and fauna. This country offers something for everyone from every walk of life. Sri Lanka has numerous tourist attractions which are of natural scenic beauty including mountainous terrains, agricultural landscapes, waterfalls, etc.
Colombo city, the bustling commercial capital is a hub of urban lifestyles. Kandy, in the hill country is brimming with history and serene beauty. The heart of Kandy is sacred attraction known as the Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth. The annual pageant or Esala Perahera continues to thrill visitors as a spectacular festival.
For those who thrive on adventure, Kitulgala offers a variety of thrilling activities such as white water rafting down the majestic Kelani River rapids, canyoning, jungle treks and bird watching.
Dubbed ‘Little England’ Nuwara Eliya personifies the cool climes amidst a sea of tea plantations. Beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys, waterfalls and tea gardens showcase nature’s bounty. The city also holds vestiges of a bygone era and summer retreats of colonisation. The city boasts one of Sri Lanka’s best Golf Courses. The Hakgala Botanical Gardens and the Ambewela Farm in Nuwara Eliya are attractions not to be missed.
Sri Lanka is celebrated as being one of the largest producers of tea in the world. Tea was introduced to the country by the British who called the country ‘Ceylon’. Today, ‘Ceylon Tea’ is considered some of the finest tea produced anywhere in the world. Sri Lanka is also best known for the production of unorthodox tea.
Take one of the most beautiful train rides from Nuwara Eliya to Ella and fall in love with beautiful countryside. There are a lot of things to do in Ella and many visitors stay longer than planned.
Sri Lanka’s golden beaches and coastal attractions make it an ideal destination for a vacation. Most of the coastlines of the country are studded with attractive coastal features such as bays, lagoons, sandbanks and rocky headlands.
Marine recreational activities such as sea bathing and swimming, surfing, boating, snorkelling, deep sea fishing, underwater photography and scuba diving are activities that visitors can explore and enjoy.
Beaches of Tangalle, Beruwala, Mirrisa, Bentota, Unawatuna, Arugam Bay, Pasikudah, Nialweli, Hikkaduwa and Negombo are recognised as among the most famous tourist beaches in the country.
Mirrisa situated in Weligama is known for its exquisite sandy beach and rich history. Legend has it that the first Methodist priests arrived in Sri Lanka on these shores. Travellers who visit this splendid beach are enthralled with its clean white sand and whispering palms.
Surrounded by the turquoise blue ocean, Sri Lanka is celebrated as one of the best surf destinations in the world.
Arugam Bay in the East Coast exudes a laid-back beachside vibe and attracts surfers and sun-seekers from around the globe. Listed at No. 8 in Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia, Arugam Bay provides a total experience interweaving surfing and the local culture. Arugam Bay with its numerous surfing points is bound to bring in the waves and signify the start of surfing in 2021. For visitors seeking an adrenaline high, kite-surfing at Kalpitiya is one of the coolest ways to indulge when in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is very rich in pre-historic, proto-historic and history and historical monuments which portray its ancient civilisation and culture. While Sri Lanka is a renowned tropical paradise, its rich history can also be traced to prehistoric eras where the earliest human remains found in an area known as Balangoda, in the Ratnapura district is about 125,000 years old.
Ratnapura or Ratnadeepa of which Sri Lanka was called in ancient times is where gem traders came to buy precious gemstones and is blessed with six endemic varieties of gemstones. One of which is the blue sapphire stone made famous around the world as the engagement ring worn by the late Princes Diana and now the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Sri Pada or Adams Peak is considered the most sacred mountain by main the four religions practiced by Sri Lankan communities i.e., Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the country.
Sri Lanka is also the proud custodian of more than 50 Ramayana site from the place of Seetha Devi Captivity to battle field where lord Rama and King Raavana’s army fought.
The nation holds many historical sites with archaeological evidence of its ancient age can been seen in cities such as Anuradhapura, famous for its well-preserved ruins.
Sri Lanka is also the proud custodian of more than 50 Ramayana sites from the place of Seetha Devi’s captivity to battlefield where Lord Rama and King Ravana’s armies fought.
UNESCO has also declared six archaeological and two ecological world heritage sites in the country. Besides the world heritage sites, the Government of Sri Lanka has declared a number of archaeological protected sites and monuments within the country.
Tourist accommodation in Sri Lanka consists of graded hotels, supplementary establishment guest houses and limited scale camping sites. Most informal accommodation is available on a paying guest system in private houses and hill-country tea estate bungalows.
Sri Lanka is open and warmly welcomes visitors
The 30-year civil war, Tsunami, Easter Sunday attack and the current COVID-19 pandemic has had a crippling affected on the tourist industry. At present there are three million people who are dependent in tourism Industry in this country. Therefore, the Chamber of Tourism and Industry is seeking funding assistance.
Sri Lanka warmly welcomes visitors once again to experience the paradise island. All travellers must apply for a visa online and download the Visit Sri Lanka app. A three-month visa will be then issued.
Anyone coming from abroad must stay in a Government-approved Level 1 hotel for up to 14 days of their stay. There are over 54 tourist hotel island-wide establishments that have been certified and awarded the ‘Safe & Secure’ Certificate. Guests can enjoy the hotel facilities such as pools, gyms, salons and restaurants.
Visitors have the freedom to visit selected 17 places declared as Bio bubble area to travel within the country enjoying several tourism sites and attractions and stay at these secure Level 1 hotels during their initial two-week stay while still observing safety protocols.
Once visitors complete their two-weeks of semi-quarantine, they will be able to move more freely within Sri Lanka.
In addition to paying for flights and accommodation, travellers are responsible for the cost of health insurance ($ 12), visa fees Asian ($ 25) other country ($ 35) and up to three PCR tests in-country ($ 40 each).
We kindly request all tourists and visitors to follow all health guidelines continuously until your trip is over.
Tourism sectors effected due to COVID-19
- Transport company’s and individual vehicles owners
- Tour operator/travel agents
- Tourism sector employees
- tourist drivers and jeep safari drivers
- Tour guides
- Restaurant, guest house and home stay operators
- Eco tourism lagoon safari service providers
- Tourist vendors
- Tourism promotion magazine publisher
- Water sports operators (surfing, diving, kite surfing)
- Cottage industry manufacturers
- Handy craft sellers and producers
- Hotel suppliers
- Ayurveda Spa centres operators
- Domestic airline companies, etc.
- Gem industry
Opportunities for Sri Lankan tourism
- Over 100 significant cultural sites, national parks, forests and sanctuaries around the country
- Eight UNESCO world heritage sites
- Opening up of significant areas and attractions that were not easily accessible in during the Civil War
- Relatively small island with short distance between tourist sites
- Ability to experience different climates within a few hours of travel
- Two different climates can be experienced from April to November and November to April.
- 60% of the national roadways are developed
- Domestic aviation availability
- Availability of strong information communication technology and internet infrastructure
- Friendly hospitable people, wide spread use and knowledge of English
- Strong private sector enterprises and institutional framework for tourism industries
- 36 international flight operators in the country
- Tourist arrivals from more than 80 countries
- Lonely Planets listed Sri Lanka as a world number one tourist destination to visit in 2019
- World tourism travel council listed Sri Lanka as a Safety country to visit
- CNN Travel selects Sri Lanka as one of the best places to visit in 2020
- Sri Lanka was chosen as the best wild life destination in Asia
- Arugam Bay is recognised as one of the best surfing destinations
- Sri Lanka ranks No. 4 in the list of 10 most in Demand Travel Destinations in 2020 followed by best warm weather destination title by USA TODAY
- Sri Lanka is appointed as one of the two Vice-Chairpersons for South Asia Commission of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) from 2019-2021
- Export status extended to the tourism industry
- Value added tax reduced from 15% to 8%
- Government has recognised tourism industry as priority industry for economic development and estimates $ 10 million in 2025
- Sri Lanka has six ports including one natural harbour.
- Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has already declared 15 Tourism Zones in Sri Lanka.
- Development of Colombo Port City is expected to provide luxury accommodation with residential towers and up-market shopping mall
- Many unregulated tourist businesses operate in the country which is seen as a risk to safety and reputation of the tourism industry
- Perception exists that Sri Lanka is a country that is still at war and therefore unsafe
- Global COVID-19 pandemic situation faced by the country today.
- Economic disparity between areas particularly those inaccessible during the civil war
- Lack of established linkage (road/rail network) between north east, north western and south west
- International direct flights have to be increased.
- A proper destination marketing effort needs to be done in major tourist market
- Government to take stern action to prevent drugs in the country.
- Combating sexual child abuse and harassment to tourists by establishing law enforcement (tourist police) units in tourism areas.
- Empowerment of women by providing employment for them in the tourism industry
About one million people are involved in the tourism sector and over three million people are dependent on tourism as an income.
Total employment, both direct and indirect in 2018 can be estimated at 0.5 million
Average duration of tourist-stay:
Europe: 10-14 days
Middle East: 7-9 days
Asian: 6-7 days
Occupancy rate 2018 71.35-79.19
Tourist spending is at an average of $ 167-177 per day
Important email addresses for tourists who are visiting Sri Lanka
- Tourism Development Authority – www.srilanka.travel
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- COVID Taskforce – Covid19sl20@gmail.com
- Ministry of Health – email@example.com
- All visas must be applied online through the immigration website – www.eta.gov.lk
- Download the Tourism Mobile App ‘Visit Srilanka’
- Chamber of Tourism and Industry – Sri Lanka (Tourism FacilitationService)
Tel: 0094-77 197 8000, 0094 11 437 8322
Issues to be considered
Tourist hotels around the island are the biggest hit due to the outbreak. A moratorium on loan and vehicle leasing payments was given to the Tourism sector for one year. However, since there has not been any improvement in the industry it is suggested that the moratorium to be extended for a further period of one year. Although there was relief provided via in capital payments the banks continue to charge interest payments. The tourism industry has been paying an interest rate from 9% to 15% and has been requested from the authorities to totally remove interest payments or to reduce interest rates to 4%
- As tourist hotels are affected the most due to the outbreak, a special loan scheme at 4% interest needs to be introduced for SMEs engaged in the tourism industry.
- Setup a COVID-19 hardship fund to assist tourist service providers who have lost their livelihood income
- Tour guides and tourist drivers were provided a onetime a relief package i.e., a payment of Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 15,000 respectively. However, since there has been no tourist business taking place and we request that the same payment be continued for another six months until the tourism industry resumes operations
- Consideration should be offered to assist the indirect suppliers of the travel Industry such as suppliers to hotels, those engaged in eco-tourism, adventure tourism, manufacturers of handicrafts, etc.
- We also suggest the Government introduce a pension scheme for tourist service providers and employees in the tourism sector
- All three international airports must be reopened with necessary health guidelines
- As tourist hotels around the island are the biggest hit due to the outbreak, a special loan scheme at 4% interest needs to be introduced for SMEs engaged in the tourism industry
- Foreign Investors who are interested tourism investment in Sri Lanka should be granted attractive tax concessions and duty concessions
- Employees in the tourism sector to be insured against all sickness including pandemics such as current COVID-19
- Providing of beach cleaning equipment to local authorities in tourism areas
- Providing of a fully equipped fire brigade to local authorities in tourism areas
- Request all booking engine commissions to reduce fees until the industry picks up
- Sri Lanka tourism development authority must establish regional branch in the tourist areas