The tourism industry’s performance was hampered first by the Easter Sunday bomb explosions in 2019 and then the COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka saw a decline in tourist arrivals from 1,913,702 in 2019 to 194,495 in 2021. It is estimated that revenue declined from USD 3600 million to USD 261 million during 2019-2021, reflecting a staggering 92.75% reduction due to a fall in arrivals. This blog discusses existing disparities in tourism and the possibility of adopting a sustainable, pro-poor tourism strategy to reduce poverty in Sri Lanka.
Despite its growing importance, women are highly underrepresented in Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, with females accounting for less than 10% of the workforce. Moreover, female enrollment in hotel schools in Sri Lanka is disturbingly low. These figures do not bode well in the context of a growing sector and the country’s already low female labour force participation rate. Within Sri Lanka’s hospitality sector, men are found to outnumber women in all occupational categories, except for Guest Relations and Front Office staff and Marketing functions. Thus, attracting more women into the sector will help to address the growing labour shortage, a crucial deterrent to the industry’s growth.
Taking into account the locations immediately affected by the Easter Sunday attacks and its ripple effects, a short- to medium-term impact on foreign exchange earnings is likely to be experienced in Sri Lanka. The tourism industry, despite once being well-positioned to continue its upward trend in foreign exchange earnings, is now likely to experience a temporary downfall, while international remittances, which were experiencing an incipient downward trend, are likely to experience a temporary upturn in the aftermath of these attacks, argues Bilesha Weeraratne.
The immediate economic consequences of Sri Lanka’s brutal Easter Sunday terror attacks are obvious. The damage to tourism is the most apparent; investments decisions might be delayed. The impact of a serious breach of security depends on whether it is perceived as an isolated incident or an endemic threat. A swift and efficient response to bring the security situation under immediate control and restore ‘normalcy’ helps establish the former; confusion and disarray only reinforce the latter and delays an economic recovery.
Tourism’s real contribution to the national economy is important to guide tourism policies. However, this is not yet clear as existing assessments do not take into account all the aspects of economic impacts of tourism. In this blog, Kanchana Wickramasinghe notes that comprehensive data and information can serve as a powerful tool in strategic tourism development.