TOUR operators are reporting an upswing in enquiries for travel to Sri Lanka, with particular interest for high end product and family holidays.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has had a mixed past, with the civil war casting a blanket over the country’s economic prosperity since the 1980s. But tourism has strongly rebounded since the government declared the end to the 25-year conflict in 2009.
A&K managing director Sujata Raman says Sri Lanka has “re-emerged” on the radar of Australian travellers in recent years as more people realise that the civil unrest has been resolved. Speaking to travelBulletin in more detail, she said A&K’s Sri Lankan bookings had increased from zero to several hundred in the last two years, with the rate of growth now outstripping other popular destinations.
“The civil war really put travellers off, but now that it has been resolved, Sri Lanka is certainly back open for business again,” she said. While Sri Lanka was once regarded as a “tourist mecca”, Raman said the destination still had some way to go to reclaim its position on the tourist map.
Work is currently underway to upgrade properties and services, but with new services and attractions now emerging, Raman said that tourism numbers would likely follow.
“There is a lot of development going on and upgrades are now happening in an ongoing fashion. Services tend to struggle when things are tough, but accommodation is now quite acceptable and there are some lovely options available,” she said.
A&K has reported particular interest in family holidays and luxury holidays to Sri Lanka – a trend that has also been noted by niche operator India Unbound.
India Unbound director Lincoln Harris told travelBulletin that demand for luxury product has steadily increased among Australian travellers, particularly clients who have already visited the main sites in India.
“Sri Lanka is a natural progression for travellers who have already visited India, and Sri Lanka does luxury product very well compared to India,” he said. “Demand is growing so quickly now that visitors are viewing Sri Lanka as safe.”
Bunnik Tours MD Dennis Bunnik echoed the same sentiment, claiming that Sri Lanka has “really taken off” after peace was declared. While the operator was operating just one group a year in the early 2000s, Bunnik Tours is now facilitating around 20 groups per year to cater for pent up demand.