Tourism in Sri Lanka

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In the twelfth century, the explorer Marco Polo wrote that Sri Lanka was the finest island in the whole world. For centuries it had been a tourism destination, particularly for European travelers. Recently, the Sri Lankan Civil War that spanned over 25 years and ended in 2009 has had a negative impact on tourism and the growth of the industry stagnated, however following this era a resurgence in Sri Lanka as a tourist destination has been evident. In 2012, post office worldwide holiday costs barometer named Sri Lanka as the best valued destination for holidays.[1] Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka exceeded 1.5 million in 2014.


Most visitors arriving to Sri Lanka on short term basis in 2013 were from the following countries of nationality:[2]

Rank Country Number
1  India 229,674
2  United Kingdom 135,425
3  Germany 91,150
4  France 62,771
5  Australia 62,242
6  China 51,704
7  Russia 47,265
8  United States 39,621
9  Japan 33,506
10  Canada 30,382


West Coast[edit]

South Coast[edit]

East Coast[edit]

North East Coast[edit]

  • Nilaveli (280 km north-east of Colombo)
  • Uppuveli (280 km north-east of Colombo)

North Coast[edit]

Religious sites[edit]

Famous religious sites in Sri Lanka that attract a large number of tourists,

Heritage Sites[edit]

There are eight world heritage sites in Sri Lanka:[3]

Together with the Central Highlands and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Wildlife parks[edit]

Tourists and elephants in Yala National Park
Sri Lankan sambar deer in Horton Plains

Sports and Adventure[edit]

Sri Lanka is a destination for sports tourism. Popular sports include Golf, Surfing, Diving & Snorkeling, Hot Air Ballooning, Rafting and Canoeing, Scuba Diving, Fishing, Cycling, Hiking, Trekking and Rock Climbing.

Locations popular for specific sports are:


Galle National Museum

Scenic Beauty[edit]

Waterfalls of Sri Lanka[edit]

St. Clair's Falls, Ellla, Sri Lanka

Botanical Gardens of Sri Lanka[edit]


Vesak lanterns

Sri Lanka is a muti-cultural country with several different festivals celebrated by various communities.


Elephants at the Esala Perahera

Dance Forms[edit]

There are three main traditional dance forms in Sri Lanka:

  1. Kandyan Dancing,
  2. Low Country Dancing,
  3. Sabaragamuwa Dancing

Though not unique to Sri Lanka 'Bharatanatyam' which originated from India is also popular in Sri Lanka particularly among the Tamil community.


Sri Lanka is the 3rd biggest tea producing country in the world. The country is best known in the world market for the production of unorthodox tea. Tea was introduced to the country by the British who called the country “Ceylon”. Pure “Ceylon Tea” is considered some of the finest tea produced anywhere in the world.


Different types of handicrafts are available in Sri Lanka:

  • Wood carving
  • Silver wear
  • Brass castings
  • Ceramic ware
  • Bamboo products
  • Pottery
  • Batiks
  • Lace works
  • Cane works
  • Costume jewelry
  • Lacquerware
  • Wooden masks
  • Coir goods
  • Handlooms
  • Ivory products

Tourism industry[edit]

Routemaster used as a tour bus in Colombo

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami[4] and the past civil war have reduced tourist arrivals but Sri Lanka received over half a million tourists in 2006.[5]

The International media reports published about the improvements in industry of January 2008 by 0.6%,[6] March 2008 by 8.6%[7] when comparing to last year's (2007) figures. It was reported that in the year 2011, total revenue from the tourists arrival to the country is $830.3 million from 850,000 tourists inflow.Further, the tourism board expects over 1 million tourists in 2012 with revenue of more than $1 billion.[8]

The number of arrivals from the Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) sector is also growing, in particular from India. The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau is targeting a 20% growth rate for MICE arrivals from India.[9]

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka exceeded 1.5 Million in 2014 and is expected to exceed 2.5 Million by 2016.[10][11]

Some of the major hotel and resort development projects currently underway in Sri Lanka are listed below.[12]

  • Shangri-La Hotel Colombo: The Hong Kong-based company recently broke ground for a 661-room tower near the storied seafront Galle Face Green in the capital. Expected to open 2017.[13]
  • Sheraton Hotels and Resorts Colombo: Starwood Hotels will make its debut with this 306-room hotel opposite Galle Face Green. Slated to open October 2013.
  • Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Colombo: The Swiss company’s entrée will be a 180-room downtown hotel. Target opening date is 2017.[14]
  • Jetwing Colombo: Local hotel group Jetwing's project will have 70 rooms and 28 serviced apartments. Opening April 2014.
The South
  • Shangri-La Hambantota Resort & Spa: A 145-acre resort with 315 rooms in southern Hambantota district, with an 18-hole golf course, dive center, and CHI Spa. Scheduled to open in 2016.[15]
  • Avani Kalutara: The second property under the new mid-market brand by Minor Hotel Group and local partner Serendib Leisure will be opened later this year. Located an hour south of Colombo, it will have 105 rooms.
  • Anantara Kalutara: A 138-room upscale resort with a spa, opening late 2013.
  • Soneva Ahungalla: Bangkok-based Six Senses’ founder Sonu Shivdasani is partnering with Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence Hotels to create an exclusive 71-villa project, occupying 10½ acres of beachfront land and the 26-acre Meeraladuwa Island, just south of Bentota. Slated for early 2014.
  • Jetwing Yala Safari, Yala: The original luxury game lodge at one of the country’s best-known parks was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. The new development will have 70 rooms and 28 villas and is expected to open in April 2013.It will have an initial capacity of 108 luxurious suites and villas. It will feature six key room categories, ranging from the more conventional resort suites and villas to luxurious tree-top suites and royal suites.[16]
The East
  • Jetwing Reef, Uppuveli: This 68-room property, set to open December 2013, will be among the first high-end resorts to open in the region since the war ended.
  • JA Eclipse Beach Resort: A beachfront resort with 33 acres of greenery with a beach front of 450 metres.
Social and environmental impacts of tourism

Tourism in Sri Lanka, despite its benefits for the local economy (it is one of the main foreign income sources of the country), is undergoing several critics. Thus, some studies indicate that a quick modern tourism development would not cater to the specific needs of the local people.[17] Also, the high biodiversity of Sri Lanka seems to be threatened by the development of mass tourism which has already affected several natural reserves. Some endangered animal species seem to be seriously threatened by the rise of tourism in some areas: that is the case of the Keerthisinghe’s Rock Frog, which is endemic in Sri Lanka.[18]

An alternative kind of tourism - called Ecotourism, sustainable tourism or responsible tourism - enables travelers to do tourism throughout Sri Lanka while contributing on the well-being of the local communities and making sure the environmental impact is limited.[19] The Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation is the national organization that created an official ecotourism network through the island, allowing to develop sustainable tourism with wide options of travel. In 2010, the foundation won the presidential awards for "Outstanding Contribution for Tourism in Sri Lanka".[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Holiday Costs Barometer 2012" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Table 17.1: Tourist arrivals by country of nationality, 2009 - 2013
  3. ^ "UNESCO World Heritage Sites". Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Tsunami region seeks tourism boost". CNN. January 6, 2005. 
  5. ^ A war strange as fiction, The Economist]
  6. ^ Aneez, Shihar (February 15, 2008). "Sri Lanka Jan tourist arrivals up 0.6 pct vs yr ago". Reuters. 
  7. ^ Sirilal, Ranga (April 16, 2008). "Sri Lanka March tourist arrivals up 8.6 pct yr/yr". Reuters. 
  8. ^ "Sri Lanka's May tourist arrivals rise 17.5 pct yr/yr". 
  9. ^ Samath, Feizal (November 8, 2012). "Sri Lanka reaches out for more Indian MICE". TTGmice. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Lanka, Gamini. "Sri Lanka : Sri Lanka tourist arrivals exceeds 1.5 million in 2014". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  11. ^ Thilakarathna, Sureshika. "Sri Lanka targets 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016 end". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  12. ^ "Hotels Return to Sri Lanka". 
  13. ^ "Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo To Open In 2017 | Press Room | Shangri-La Hotels". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  14. ^ "Opening soon". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  15. ^ "Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka to open in 2016 | Press Room | Shangri-La Hotels". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  16. ^ Lanka, Gamini. "Sri Lanka : JA Resorts to develop beach resort in East coast of Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  17. ^ Evan Due (1980). "Tourism and Development: Examining the Case of Sri Lanka". Open Access Dissertations and Theses. 
  18. ^ Gazala Anver. "Tourism Threatening Endangered Species". The Sunday Leader. 
  19. ^ J. Thumira Gunasena. "Tourism in Sri Lanka and its Impact on Social Political and Natural Environment" (PDF). 

External links[edit]