Sri Lanka asks: Where have all the tourists gone?
The total number of tourists as recorded by the Emigration department and published by the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority (SLTDA) for 2016 was 2,050,832. Foreign Guest Nights (FGN) in star-class conventional hotels for 2016 was 1,595,118 according to the SLTDA, and average stay per tourist in the country was 10.2 days. Hence, by dividing the FGN by average the stay, the total number of tourists staying in conventional hotels is derived.
This reveals that the “real” tourists staying in graded (conventional) hotels in Sri Lanka is 1,025,416, which is only about 50% of total arrivals.
The total FGN generated by the supplementary sector for 2016 is 5,404,602. As before, dividing this by the average stay of 10.2 indicates that some 529,863 tourists stayed in these supplementary establishments, which is 26% of all arrivals.
The balance of 24% is the unaccounted “leakage factor.” This leakage could be some tourists who do not stay in hotels, such as the diaspora element. The other part of this leakage are the tourists who stay in the real unregistered informal sector. These are the large number of un-registered small bed and breakfast units that have sprung up in all popular tourist cities on the round-trip circuit,” whose statistics are not caught up in the SLTDA records.
This could be the reason that graded star-class hotels continue to struggle to maintain high occupancy levels and yields, in spite of the overall arrival numbers showing large increases.
In discussing this with several other industry colleagues, the general consensus was that due to possible estimations in some of the STDA figures, the actual number patronizing conventional hotels could be even less than 50%.
The author of this article, Srilal Miththapala, is Past President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, and he analyzed the tourist arrival statistics to come up with the afore-mentioned conclusions.