Sri Lanka is a ‘Must Visit' destination for travelers and you will never regret visiting Sri Lanka once in your lifetime. This dream island is surrounded by golden beaches, tropical weather all year round, full of spectacular scenery, lush greenery, and wildlife at every turn, and serving up some of the best curries in the world, it is with good reason that Sri Lanka has remained at the top of top travel destination lists year after year.
This magical island has a total land area of 65,610 km² (25,332 mi²) surrounded by the Indian ocean. If you travel from top to bottom, it is approximately 250 miles, and up to about 120 miles from left to right. 21.7 million of the population; the majority are Sinhalese, but Tamils, Moors, burgers, and other minority nationalities live harmoniously. Anyone who visits the island will never forget the warm hospitality of the people and their smiles (Wikipedia Contributors,2019).
Sri Lanka has an incredible history of over 2500 years and Portuguese, Dutch and British invaded and ruled the country till 1948 and it was named Ceylon by the British. Even with many challenging situations from time to time: a 30-year-old civil war, an Asian Tsunami, an Eater attack, political instability, and an economic crisis, Sri Lanka is still a very popular destination for travelers around the world (Wikipedia Contributors,2019).
This culturally and historically remarkable country has seven UNESCO world heritage sites spread across the country. There is nothing that you can not have as a tourist in Sri Lanka: sandy beaches, misty mountains, breathtaking sceneries, lush jungles, and historical places take you back to more than 2500 years old grandeur of the country, flora, fauna, waterfalls, rivers and many more. No doubt that the tourism industry is one of the top 3 industries in Sri Lanka that created many direct and indirect job opportunities and generated foreign exchange revenue (Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance,2022).
Temple of Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka by Darshan Daniel
The remarkable Sigiriya rock fortress, built in the 5th century and considered to be the eighth wonder of the world and is a must-visit place in Sri Lanka. You will wonder about the architect and the technology involved in this rock fortress. Visiting the temple of Tooth Relic in the hill country: Kandy has become an essential part of the travel plan.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress by Sean Dean
You can experience a warm and cool climate within a few hours when traveling within the country. Sri Lanka is home to the world’s two largest mammals: elephants and blue whales. you should never forget to get the experience of a safari in the jungle and in the blue water sea.
Whale watching, Mirissa, Beach -Beruwala My Good Images – Shutterstock.com
Baker’s Falls, Elephant Safari at Minneriya Nature Reserve, Hortain Plains National Park ,Shutterstock.com
If you want to experience Sri Lankan culture and traditions, you MUST try the local cuisine. The island is home to many different religious and ethnic groups, and each has its own unique food. Different varieties of homegrown spices and herbs are the main reason for the taste of Sri Lankan foods. And Sri Lanka is home to many tropical fruits. Travelers are more attracted to local foods and drinks than international cuisine when in Sri Lanka. Local spirits are also in high demand.
Traditional food herbs and Tropical Fruits in Sri Lanka by Shutterstock.com
You should stay in Sri Lanka at least for two weeks to experience the whole country: Sigirya, Dambulla, the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Pinnewala and Udawalawe Elephant Orphanages, knuckles mountain range, Turtle Hatcheries, Yala/ Minneriya/Sinharaja/Kumana/Hortain Plains nature reserves, sandy beaches around the country, are popular.
Sri Lankan Hospitality………
Hospitality is a part of Sri Lankan culture. With beautiful smiles on their faces, everyone is ready to welcome you and treat you. Most importantly hospitality plays a major role in Sri Lanka's tourism and it is the main income contributor to the tourism industry. You can see many varieties of hospitality facilities around the country: Resort hotels, city hotels, luxury boutique hotels, homestays, camping sites, and restaurants that provide international and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. You can simply select the place as you wish according to your preference and budget. You can find some sort of hospitality facilities in every corner of the country, however, the facilities depend on the price.
Heritance, Kandalama and Uga Chena Hut hotels From Expedia.com
People in Sri Lankans are naturally friendly and always ready to welcome unknown people with nice smiles on their faces. You’ll find that Sri Lankans are very hospitable and take pride in inviting people to their homes, however modest they may be. Sri Lanka has a reputation for hospitality because the social orientation is centered on a tradition of care and empathy. This hospitable nature of Sri Lankans has had a positive association with the hospitality industry of the country. This reputation helped to brand Sri Lanka and position it as a high-end travel destination with excellent service standards. Not only the hotels and resort hotels contribute to the tourism industry in Sri Lanka but also the restaurants, B & B places, homestay accommodations, camping sites, and many other partners have involvement in delivering the hospitality services. There are many international hotel chains operating in Sri Lanka, including Hilton, Shangri-La, Best Western, Taj, Marriott, and Intercontinental, and many big international players are planning to come into Sri Lanka within the next few years (SLTDA - Sri Lanka tourism development authority,2021).
The Sri Lankan tourism and hospitality industry have many influences internally and externally such as political instability, economic situation, social factors, technological changes, environmental reasons, and the legal setup of the country.
The political stability or instability will definitely decide the growth rate of the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka is a developing nation. Political unrest in the country during the past few months created many issues: international travel bans, the reputation of the country, and the safety of travelers. The hospitality sector was worse affected by this situation where the tourist arrivals have gone down drastically. Some decisions taken by the government such as tax revisions, and import bans have created multiple issues for the hotel and restaurant sectors. However, I can see some favorable decisions taken by the government to improve the hospitality sector in the recent past in order to support the hospitality and tourism industry which has a direct impact on the nation’s economy. And the government is trying to work cordially with the hospitality sector and has a continuous dialog with its representatives.
Source: SLTDA (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority)
What you should know about the Sri Lankan Hospitality industry………….
Due to its strategic location, Sri Lanka has become the central focus of the world and has always been impacted by the world’s political situation. Large foreign loans, mainly taken from China with high-interest rates, have dragged the country into a debt trap. The power struggle between the superpowers, the Ukrainian-Russian war has impacted Sri Lankan tourism very badly. And the decision taken by the powerful neighbor - India has always had an impact on this Island. People commonly believe in current economic and political issues mostly due to investment loans taken from China. Despite all the challenges, Sri Lanka is regaining its position as a “Wonder of Asia” and providing its best hospitality to travelers visiting the country.
Currently, Sri Lanka is experiencing some economic downfalls mainly due to the deficit of foreign currency reserves. Economic growth and foreign currency reserves had slowed down in the last seven years (Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2021). They can overcome this situation soon if the tourist flow comes back to normal. The number of international tourists who have arrived in Sri Lanka during the year 2019 is 1.9 Mn and the foreign exchange earned through tourism is approximately Rs 646 Mn according to the Annual Report released by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. Tourism is the third major source of revenue generation for the Sri Lankan economy and hospitality is the major party within the tourism industry generating foreign exchange for the economy Economic contribution from tourism is 4.3% of GDP and it is a percentage of 13.7 of the total foreign exchange earnings (SLTDA, 2021). The direct and indirect opportunities generated through tourism and hospitality are around 450,000. The majority of these people are involved in the hospitality sector. Tourism authorities had anticipated one million arrivals generating a revenue of 1.8 billion dollars at the end of 2023 (Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2021).
People in the country have positive hope with the trend in tourist arrivals during the last few months. The hospitality industry will gain the momentum to perform better by upgrading its facilities to cater to the world. This trend will again provide job opportunities to the people which has an overall impact on the family income.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Sri Lanka is a multicultural country and has a strong bond among different communities. I believe that this cultural influence has created a reputation for good hospitality. And tourism has spread in every corner of the country. Though the literacy rate is about 93% in Sri Lanka, the rural population is mostly below the poverty line (Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2021). People who are engaged in tourism, run small guesthouses, small hotels, restaurants, bars, and tea boutiques have become a major source of revenue and some do arts and crafts, spice gardens, batik shops, woodwork, and trying to earn money. 90% of the employees are working in the hospitality sector whereas only 10% are engaged with other tourism-related jobs in Sri Lanka (CECI, 2017). There are other many indirect employment opportunities that has being generated by tourism, such as people working as drivers, guides,etc. Hospitality and tourism have a major impact on Sri Lankan society as they create a lot of income opportunities for the people.
Source: Observer Research Foundation
Hotels and restaurant operators often take the initiative to involve the tourists in the local culture and local foods. When you travel outside the main capital city of Sri Lanka, you will be able to get involved with local cooking, farming, and other household industries. This will not only mode their journey memorable but experience local cultural beauty as well. And the biggest trend we experience in the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka like in other countries, the opinion of the travelers became very vital. Most travelers read the reviews before selecting the destination, hospitality service provider and travel partner, etc. Google reviews and TripAdvisor reviews have a very important role in this aspect. This social influence should be managed properly by all the hospitality players.
One other change that has taken place recently is the technological involvement in the hospitality and tourism industry. Virtual tourism has become a new trend during the pandemic period but not much is involved with Sri Lankan tourism. I can see many hospitality players; hotels and restaurants are adopting new technological features to their services.
Nowadays, it is quite natural that tourists find information about the trip and the hotels through different sites where anyone can select and book their holiday online. Sri Lanka is open to technological trends and most hospitality providers support online bookings, QR codes, and online payment methods. Most of the hostels in Sri Lanka are accepting website bookings and other small players are registered with other booking engines such as booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, and Hotel.com. When you are traveling in Sri Lanka, you have nothing to worry about electronic payment methods other than transportation services. And Sri Lanka is way ahead in using social media than many other Asian countries. Social media is one of the major forces in driving the Hospitality industry in Sri Lanka.
It is obvious that as same with the rest of the world, Sri Lanka also faces some environmental challenges e.g. air and water pollution, the destruction of mangroves, deforestation, and poor waste management. The hotel especially has a great impact on environmental conservation. They can take measures to decrease food, water, and energy wastage. They may switch to renewable energy sources for power to reduce pollution. They can also increase the use of recyclable products to stop plastic pollution.
Construction and development of hospitality facilities had affected the environment, especially in urban cities. There were many protests in the recent past by the public urging the government to protect the nature reserves and restrict hotel construction. The government and many other non-profit organizations are working hard to create a balance between tourism and sustainable development.
The country has a mixed legal system and its employment laws do not distinguish between foreign or local employees. The local legal system has some barriers to foreign investments which create an unsuitable environment for hospitality and tourism development. This has mainly become a barrier to the development and investment of the hospitality industry. The laws relating to the laws and taxation rules have a direct impact on the hospitality sector in the country. But I am very optimistic about the chances of Sri Lanka’s reopening working out for both locals and travelers with some regulations.
It is visible that the government of Sri Lanka is making some efforts to impose laws and regulations to protect the environment from unplanned tourism development activities.
Where Sri Lanka is heading to……………………………
I don’t believe the tourist numbers will be back to 2018 levels until 2023 or 2024, but tourists are already started visiting the country and will continue to visit the incredible island. You can see that Sri Lanka is still showing positive trends in tourism arrivals giving some hope to the hospitality service providers which are fed by the tourists.
Whitewater Rafting, Kithulgala by Serendipity Travels and Tours
There are so many different hotels and resorts that are already offering diverse and unique experiences which allow people from different parts of the world to. Even with the economic challenges, many investors have taken a bold decision to invest in floating hotels. Eco parks, and theme parks which is a good signs. Most of the hotels are renovating and adding new rooms, restaurants, and different amenities to welcome travelers. I have noticed that there are high-end restaurants and restaurants that offer different experiences.
I was amazed to see the news of new development coming up in the next few months to improve the recreational activities across the island. South Asia’s first-ever Disneyland, buggy jumping, water sports, and off-road driving tracks.new hotels by international chains are a few of them they are planning to start with the collaboration of foreign partners.
Dambulla Cave Temple by Darshan Daniel
And the COVID-19 pandemic placed a focus on hygiene, and safety, than before, where the hospitality sector is forced to change its health and safety practices to ensure the safety of travelers. Sri Lanka is still following the Covid guidelines and is among the safest countries to travel to in the world.
It is not very difficult for Sri Lanka to adapt to natural living and to meet the latest demand of travelers. They have all the sources to generate organic foods and eco-travel with Sri Lanka with its natural resources and traditional way of life. I can see the travelers are slowly moving to the rural areas from the famous destinations which is a good sign.
Same as many other countries Sri Lanka also has changed its dependency from international tourists to local tourists. This trend is due to travel restrictions, ongoing wars, and economic recessions in the world. This does not mean giving up on international travelers entirely, but there is a clear trend in local travelers than before. It has recorded a 28% increase in local tourism in Sri Lanka in the year 2021 compared to 2018 (SLTDA, 2021).
Virtual reality is another of the major tourism trends. Online VR tours allow customers to experience hotel interiors, restaurant interiors, outdoor tourist attractions, and more, all from their homes. With the covid restrictions, the Sri Lankan hospitality sector has also adopted this new norm to some extent. But I feel that Sri Lanka needs a lot of improvement in this aspect to cater to the new demand. Apart from that some hotels and restaurants are trying SMART options: contactless payments, bookings, one tough service, etc.
There is a trend in the world that tourists are traveling alone rather than in groups. This may be due to the rising cost and other restrictions. I feel that Sri Lanka is also getting adjusted to this by accommodating the solo requirement such as single room basis, facilities, tour arrangements, guided services, etc. It is rather easy for Sri Lanka hospitality service providers to cater to that requirement as most of the hostels have a single-room basis, rent-a-car, and moto-bicycle services at affordable prices. It is common to see solo travelers on motorcycles traveling around the country.
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