Indian tourist arrivals too big to be ignored
India constitutes a big market with a growing middle class who
creates an increasing demand for travel and tourism.
This provides a major source market for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry,
provided that the tourism industry is set to capitalize on the
opportunity that it has within close proximity by recognizing the
specific features of the Indian tourists.
Colombo University Economics Professor Dr. Sirimal Abeyratne made
this remark presenting his research findings on the issue at the Sanvada
Seminar of the Pathfinder Foundation, held at the Sri Lanka Institute of
Tourism and Hotel Management on June 9.
Indian tourists arriving in the island on the recently
inaugurated cruise liner from Tuticorin. Picture by Sulochana
The seminar was completed on a timely and well researched analytical
study for the Pathfinder Foundation, the economic think-tank on the
Indian tourism market.
This study includes a detailed analysis of the current status and
characteristics of Indian tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka, and identifies
a number of benefits from further promotion.
The seminar was chaired by Lirneasia Executive Director Dr. Rohan
Samarajiva, while Tourists Hotels Association of Sri Lanka President
Anura Lokuhetti and Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray made presentations.
According to Prof. Abeyratne, Sri Lanka attracts only about 1 percent
of over 11 million Indian tourists whose attractive tourist destinations
are Singapore, China, Thailand, Hong Kong and USA.
These countries attract ‘high income’ and ‘upper-middle income’
tourists, while Sri Lanka caters to the Indian tourists from the ‘lower
middle’ income groups.
Indian tourists are different from the Western tourists in terms of
tourism interests and purposes, seasonal variation of arrivals, tourist
nights spending and tourism expenses.
By identifying the importance of this growing market and its special
characteristics, Sri Lanka should create a differentiated tourism
product market, adopt simple and clear immigration procedures and
develop regional ‘entry points’ by air and sea in the Northern part of
In addition, Indian tourism is associated more with business,
shopping, and other purposes than with leisure.
According to Prof. Abeyratne, it is important to create a tourism
sector that caters divergent tourism interests and strengthen economic
integration with India.
Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka President Anura Lokuhetti,
elaborated the importance of the growing Indian economy and its middle
class who creates an ever-increasing demand for travel and tourism.
As India is projected to have over 50 million outbound tourist
departures by 2016, according to Lokuhetti, given the close proximity
Sri Lanka has the potential to become a major tourist destination for
Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray highlighted the importance of learning
how to cater the Indian tourists as the Indian tourists are a highly
diverse group which requires designing differentiated tourism products
to cater to all of them.
He also stressed the potentials that Sri Lankan tourism industry
possesses to cater the big Indian market, but as at present Sri Lanka
caters only to its lower-end tourist market.
By wrapping up the Sanvada seminar, the Chairperson Professor Rohan
Samarajiva, Lirneasia Chairman, pointed out the importance of ‘Patel
Points’ in USA, UK and many other countries which provide a memorial
attraction to the Indian tourists.
In Sri Lanka, there is hardly any ‘Patel Point’ that attracts Indian
The Sanvada seminar is aimed at studying the importance of Indian
tourist arrivals for the tourism development of Sri Lanka with inputs
and comments from the resource persons to feed into a policy debate.
The final outcome of the event is to prepare a Policy Brief which
will be distributed among the Parliamentarians, policy makers, and other
government and non-government agencies in guiding the policy