Product managers creating holidays in Sri Lanka believe 2020 will be a positive year due to better road infrastructure, the increasing popularity of ecotourism products, new and flexible accommodation offerings and heightened security.
In the last few weeks, customer queries have increased. Optimism in the Sri Lankan travel trade is returning. Visitors to Sri Lanka in the last three months have praised their experience and told tour operators that they received a very warm welcome and felt safe travelling around the island, including families.
Tour operator Steppes Travel said booking queries are returning to pre-April 2019 levels, but are not quite there yet. Steppes reported limited room availability over Christmas and New Year. “We still have some ground to make up to reach the same passenger numbers travelling pre-April 2019, but we are positive for 2020,” said Clare Burkey, product consultant for Sri Lanka at Steppes.
“The travel trade has been immensely supportive of Sri Lanka since Easter last year,” said Eleanor Milner, director of The Sri Lanka Collection, which specialises in boutique heritage hotels, a major attraction across the destination.
New tourism products and experiences are underpinning recovery. There have been new hotel openings and major investments at The Viceroy House in Pasyala and Haritha Villa & Spa in Hikkaduwa near Galle. The 26-suite Jetwing Kandy Gallery is due to open early 2020.
Ecotourism is an increasingly important card in Sri Lanka’s comeback. Sri Lanka is one of only 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, based in Montreal.
“Forbes has rightly called Sri Lanka the best wildlife safari destination outside of Africa,” said Petra Ismail, general manager of Khiri Travel in Sri Lanka. The Khiri GM said the country is now uniquely placed to deliver high quality experiences due to three types of themed activities: learning from nature (e.g. participating in reforesting, leopard research), the charm of lesser visited cultural sites (such as Ritigala), and getting close to local people, with personalised experiences across the country.
These themes have been incorporated in Khiri Travel’s updated Sri Lanka signature experiences for 2020. In each trip, local experts share insights while guests experience first-hand the beautiful defining elements of Sri Lanka.