Tourism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka recorded a total of 540,000 tourists in 2020, ranking 123rd in the world in absolute terms.

That smaller countries regularly perform lower in a comparison of the absolute number of guests, is obvious. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Sri Lanka, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.024 tourists per resident, Sri Lanka ranked 165th in the world. In South Asia, it ranked 3rd.

In 2020, Sri Lanka generated around 1.08 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 1.2 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 6 percent of all international tourism receipts in South Asia.

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Back to overview: Sri Lanka

On average, each of the tourists arriving in 2020 spent about 1,892 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of Sri Lanka spend as much as 2,500 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

Development of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in Sri Lanka each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

The red line represents the average of all 8 countries in South Asia.

Tourists per year in Sri Lanka

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 367.00 million USD, or about 2.8 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 414,000 tourists at that time and roughly 886 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $4.66 billion billion, 5.2 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $2,300 on their vacation in Sri Lanka.

In 2020, tourist receipts plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $4.66 billion billion (2019), only $1.08 billion billion remained. This is a 77 percent decrease in Sri Lanka.

Tourism receipts in Sri Lanka per year

All data for Sri Lanka in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
2020540,0001.08 bn $1.3 %1,993 $
20192.03 m4.66 bn $5.2 %2,300 $
20182.52 m5.61 bn $5.9 %2,225 $
20172.25 m5.08 bn $5.4 %2,261 $
20162.17 m4.59 bn $5.2 %2,118 $
20151.99 m3.98 bn $4.7 %1,996 $
20141.67 m3.28 bn $4.1 %1,969 $
20131.42 m2.51 bn $3.4 %1,771 $
20121.13 m1.76 bn $2.6 %1,550 $
2011976,0001.42 bn $2.2 %1,456 $
2010766,0001.04 bn $1.8 %1,363 $
2009538,000754.00 m $1.8 %1,401 $
2008526,000803.00 m $2.0 %1,527 $
2007592,000750.00 m $2.3 %1,267 $
2006689,000733.00 m $2.6 %1,064 $
2005669,000729.00 m $3.0 %1,090 $
2004681,000808.00 m $3.9 %1,186 $
2003583,000709.00 m $3.8 %1,216 $
2002457,000594.00 m $3.6 %1,300 $
2001397,000347.00 m $2.2 %874 $
2000445,000388.00 m $2.4 %872 $
1999465,000414.00 m $2.6 %890 $
1998409,000369.00 m $2.3 %902 $
1997384,000351.00 m $2.3 %914 $
1996315,000282.00 m $2.0 %895 $
1995414,000367.00 m $2.8 %886 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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