The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) carried out an airport survey of foreign tourists departing from Sri Lanka between January and June 2011, and the results have recently been published. Information was gathered using direct interviews with a descriptive sample of 4,500 tourists across 11 market groups, in order to enhance accuracy.
Eighty-seven per cent of respondents had chosen Sri Lanka for holiday purposes, up from 81 per cent who responded similarly in the company’s comparable 2008/09 study, although the number of travellers coming for ‘sun and beach’ purposes dropped from 59 per cent in 2008/09 to 49 per cent in 2011, possibly due to the increased popularity of cultural trips to the hill country. Meanwhile, eight per cent of respondents had chosen Sri Lanka for business and five per cent for ‘other’ purposes, most of which involved visiting friends and relatives.
The average length of stay was 10 nights, with Indian tourists remaining for an average of four nights and UK and German travellers averaging 14 to 21 nights, signifying that tourists from Western European areas represent more revenue than some other tourists. Kandy overtook Colombo as the most popular destination within Sri Lanka, with 63 per cent of respondents confirming that they had visited the city in 2011, while Sigiriya and the hill country were shown to be the next most popular areas.
The survey also showed that the number of tourists using tour operators and travel agents had dropped to 46 per cent (from 59 per cent in 2008/09), while visitors using conventional hotel establishments dropped from 83 per cent in 2008/09 to 73 per cent in 2011. Almost 30 per cent of respondents were repeat travellers, and the proportion of tourists who were ‘delighted by their visit’ remained virtually unchanged from 2008/09, with 65 per cent. Unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka’s elephants maintained their popularity, with over 65 per cent of respondents expressing an interest in perusing the pachyderms.