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27 December, 2010 10:56 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka

Worst ever winter in Europe is applying breaks on a much higher influx of tourists to Sri Lanka, industry sources warned yesterday.
“Recent shut downs and disruptions in European airports along with overall adverse weather have resulted in some cancellations or previously made bookings rescheduled,” a city hotelier told the Daily FT. “However we expect the situation to improve,” he added.
Early this month city hotels and those outside were enjoying record occupancy. Expectations were that during Christmas and New Year season most hotels would reach over 90% occupancy levels. However with a few cancellations and or rescheduled trips such a high occupancy is unlikely, industry analysts opined.
Partly due to the adverse weather conditions and allegedly due to economic reasons at least a few charters especially from Russia and Eastern Europe have got cancelled, the Daily FT learns.  These cancellations are likely to derail plans for some of the hotels which were expecting to house Eastern European tourists.
During the height of severe snowstorms, several SriLankan Airlines flights to UK were cancelled or delayed as it was the case of other airlines. Since mid last week the schedule of national carrier is back on track.
Foreign agency reports said flights across Europe were limping back to normalcy after some of the worst disruptions caused by an unusually harsh winter, but heavy snow and freezing conditions continued to cause misery on the roads and for the railways. They also said hundreds of travellers whose flights were grounded by icy weather in Europe spent Christmas Day jammed in airport queues after sleeping overnight on camp beds in Paris and Brussels terminals.
City Hotels Association President. M. Shanthikumar confirmed that arrivals from Europe had been interrupted due to adverse weather and the industry expects normalcy to return in the coming weeks.
He estimated the current occupancy levels at city hotels to be between 80 and 85%.
Other sources said that the Maldives which relies heavily on European tourists had been hit most whilst Sri Lanka which of late has been tapping different markets was managing the effects of adverse weather crisis in Europe well.
Despite the temporary hiccup Sri Lanka which recently received its 600,00th tourist is set to end 2010 on an upbeat note.
Arrivals from Western Europe in the first 11 months were up 50% to 226,000 whilst tourists from Eastern Europe have grown by 32% to 31,000. Europe in general has accounted for 45% of total tourist arrivals this year.
The month of November which is part of the beginning of the winter season saw robust growth in arrivals. Arrivals from Western Europe grew by over 61% to nearly 25,000 whilst that from Eastern Europe grew by 42% to nearly 5,000.

Confirming industry assertions that efforts in seeking new markets have produced results, tourists from the Middle East have increased by 60% to 34,000 in the first 11 months whilst East Asia saw a growth of over 40% to 60,000. Traditionally strong South Asia market remained resilient with arrivals up 37% to 152,000 with India leading up 52% to 111,130 arrivals. Arrivals from North American have grown by 65% to 35,000 and from Australasia up 45% to 29,000.

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