China became one of Sri Lanka’s top countries with visitors lured by their sunny shores, following several successful marketing campaigns on the mainland by Sri Lanka’s tourism board. Sri Lanka experienced a 60 percent jump in visitors from East Asia in April, largely fueled by Chinese travelers.
Sri Lankan news source Ceylon Today reported that total tourist numbers from January until April crossed the half-million mark, helped by a 136 percent growth in Chinese travelers during that time. April alone saw 112,631 visitors, a 40 percent growth year-on-year. Of that number, 8,005 were Chinese visitors. China has yielded a total of 36,803 visitors from January to April, a number that equals more than a third of the 91,055 East Asian visitors to Sri Lanka. Chinese travelers to Sri Lanka have been steadily increasing, from 27,627 in 2012 to 54,288 in 2013. This puts China as Sri Lanka’s third-largest source of tourists behind India and the UK.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau attributes its success in part to a massive promotional campaign it held in China late last year. Officials of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said that the booming Chinese tourist numbers are “inseparable with the vigorous promotional drive carried out in the Chinese market and the creative activities in 2013.” The tourism board, together with the Embassy of Sri Lanka, started a six-month advertising campaign beginning in September 2013 on 200 public buses in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.
The gaming and resort industries are also doing their best to attract Chinese travelers to Sri Lanka. Asia Nikkei reports that Crown Resorts is seeking to develop a $400 million casino hotel in Colombo through a joint venture with a local casino owner. Despite the objections of Buddhist leaders and opposition legislators, the government embraced Crown’s proposal that its joint venture could lure bigger crowds of Indian and Chinese visitors by extending tax incentives. Crown Resorts Chairman James Packer, speaking to business delegates in Colombo about the project, said “[The] wealthy Chinese middle class wants luxury travel, luxury hotels, signature restaurants, quality entertainment, gaming, casinos and high-end retail… They are attracted to luxury integrated resorts, which meet all of their travel needs under one roof.”