This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 7/22/2019


Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner in the country. Sri Lanka recorded its highest ever number of arrivals in 2018 with over 2.3 million tourists coming into the country. It is estimated that the sector earned around $4.3 billion in 2018, 11 percent more than previous year.  Sri Lanka offers a mix of attractions including beaches, wild life parks, rain forests, tea plantations, ancient ruins, Buddhist cultural sites, and festivals.  Sri Lanka is ranked 64th out of 141 countries in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 of the World Economic Forum.  The government aims to increase tourist arrivals to 3 million in 2019, although the April 21 terrorist attacks have dampened prospects for 2019 and 2010.  India and China contributed the largest number of tourist arrivals, followed by the UK, Germany, and France. 

Investment in the tourism sector continues with projects approved in 2018 valued at around $223 million. The government aims to attract global names to Sri Lanka.  Recently, several international and regional hotel chains have begun building or operating hotels in Sri Lanka, including the Marriott, Shangri-La, Six Senses, and Movenpick.  Shangri-La and Movenpick commenced operations in 2017 while others such as Sheraton and ITC are expected to be completed in 2019/20.  A few local conglomerates control most of the luxury resort hotels in Sri Lanka.  In addition, the boutique hotel concept is fast catching on.  During the war (which ended in 2009), international hotel companies were absent from Sri Lanka.  Hilton had been the only global player in Sri Lanka, managing a luxury hotel (which is government owned) and an apartment complex in Colombo for many years.   

Tourism offers both investment and trade opportunities.  The government is offering beach land and islets for tourism development.  Several policy initiatives and actions were implemented in 2017 to harness the potential of the sector. The new tourism strategic plan introduced in 2017 aims to increase revenue to $7 billion by 2020 and create 600,000 workers in support industries.

Eastern Sri Lanka is an area that offers significant potential as the beaches in this area are considered world-class.  Locations such as Pasekudah and Arugam Bay are premier destinations, especially for surfing enthusiasts.  The country has several parks and forests that are home to a multitude of wildlife and unique fauna and flora species, and is considered a biodiversity hotspot by several international environmental groups.  A recent prohibition on sales of land to foreigners may complicate development of new properties.  Eco-friendly resorts are also gaining popularity with many developers opting to establish “green” hotels to attract a growing market segment.  Increasing tourism is driving significant growth in the restaurant industry.

According to industry experts, an emerging tourism trend has brought a large influx of tourists seeking a more authentic experience.  These tourists, who are mostly younger, seek cheaper accommodation units and home stays, and utilize internet applications for navigation.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Casual Dining Restaurants
Hotel Equipment


The tourism sector should represent considerable opportunities for U.S. suppliers in a range of areas such as infrastructure, technology and consultancy services, hotel equipment, furniture, water purification systems, electrical systems, energy efficient equipment, restaurant and kitchen equipment, food and beverage, bathroom accessories, spa and fitness equipment, and water sports equipment. 

Sri Lanka is also planning to introduce aviation services including air taxis and helicopter services to support its tourism drive. 
The increased expansion of the hotel sector, upgrading of current properties, and construction of international hotel chains that require high end inputs and technology, provide significant prospects for U.S. companies.

The number of casual dining, fine dining, and quick service restaurant outlets have significantly increased in Sri Lanka during recent years. International and domestic restaurants are expanding their operations.  Various new-to-market restaurant companies continue to explore opportunities and make investments.  U.S. suppliers with an interest in Sri Lanka have increasing options to introduce U.S. products to the growing culinary and hospitality sectors.

Web Resources

The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka    
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority

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More Information

Sri Lanka Travel and Tourism Trade Development and Promotion