Forty six years of organised tourism in Sri Lanka (1966-2012)

H.M.S. Samaranayake (Tourism Consultant, Thalangama South, Sri Lanka)
Nizam Lantra (Department of Social Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka)
Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena (Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, St Catharines, Canada)

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Publication date: 11 November 2013



This paper aims to provide a backdrop for the Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) theme issue on tourism in Sri Lanka.


This paper is written in the context of a strategic question: “how might post-war Sri Lanka develop inbound tourism?” A narrative approach is taken to cover a period of 46 years.


26 years of war affected tourism in Sri Lanka resulting in low demand, low prices and a reputation as a cheap destination. Turnaround came when the war ended in 2009. In 2012 Sri Lanka passed two milestones in its tourism history by emerging as a “million tourist destination” and a “billion dollar export income earner”. Sri Lanka is now aiming to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016.

Practical implications

Tourism in Sri Lanka has the potential to emerge as a major export income earner. To further develop tourism, Sri Lanka must develop a long-term tourism master plan with inputs from all stake holders. Authors suggest that such a master plan is needed to achieve a target of 4.5 million tourist arrivals by 2024.


This paper learns from the past and plans for the future. A former Chairman and a former Director of the national tourism authority of Sri Lanka joined hands with an international hospitality and tourism educator to co-write this paper to advocate for a holistic plan in further development of tourism in Sri Lanka.



Samaranayake, H., Lantra, N. and (Chandi) Jayawardena, C. (2013), "Forty six years of organised tourism in Sri Lanka (1966-2012)", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 5 No. 5, pp. 423-441.

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