Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau's (SLTPB) Middle East office reported an enormous surge of Arab travellers as Middle East Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka rose by an unprecedented 102 per cent in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
"Regardless of apprehensions of an unsteady global economy, Middle East's discerning travellers are spending time and money on travel and Sri Lanka has been one of the preferred destinations of choice with a meteoric rise in tourists during H1 2010," observed Ms Heba Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of SLTPB.
"We have just closed in on the results of the first six months of 2010 and we're up 102% as compared to H1 2009," Ms Al Mansoori said. "While 2009 was when the recovery process started, with the end of three decades of war, the rebound has been robust and rapid and the recovery is being driven and led by the Middle East with strong growth from key markets including the UAE up by 209%, Saudi Arabia up by 96% and Kuwait up by 50%."
Sri Lanka's tourism industry is resilient and the government is sparing no efforts to revitalize the tourism industry as they recognize that tourism has a key role to play in the country's economic recovery and stability.
"Our outlook remains positive for the rest of the year as we have successfully built a relationship of trust with both regional consumers and the travel trade and will continue to reap benefits with the gradually improving economic situation," Ms Al Mansoori stated.
Apart from the Middle East, regions that proved to be a major source market for Sri Lanka and recorded growth in H1 2010 included North America (up by 70%), Western Europe (up by 45%), Eastern Europe (up by 22%), Africa (up by 18%), East Asia (up by 44%), South Asia (up by 53%) and Australasia (up by 44%).
While commenting on SLTPB's Middle East marketing drive, Ms. Al Mansoori said, "We have had to adapt to the changing needs of the consumers and capitalize on trends such as late booking, increasing use of the internet to look and book by increasing Sri Lanka's presence in the web domain regionally."
Ms. Al Mansoori noted that in the Middle East in particular, travelling closer and for shorter periods of time and demanding value for money, seem to have been accentuated during the post crisis period. "The regional outbound market is evolving and inescapably requires changes as we need to know and understand consumers better to be able to market to them," she said.
SLTPB opened its office in Dubai in May 2008 to maximize the opportunities emerging throughout the Middle East while strengthening support for the travel trade in the region. Since then the Dubai office has co-ordinated all of Sri Lanka's tourism promotional activities in the Arab markets including exhibition participation, marketing visits, presentations and road shows, brochure distribution, public relations, as well as familiarization visits to the island for influential business and travel journalists. The office also functions as the preliminary contact point and enquiry processing centre for travel trade companies and tourists in the region.
Sri Lanka is now on the threshold of developing to its full potential as a prime tourism destination with diverse offerings for members of the whole family whether it is beaches, shopping, visits to wildlife reserves, relaxing at a spa, or simply enjoying the cuisine.