Leisure & tourism sector in Sri Lanka

Beach © DP World

Leisure & tourism sector in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s aim to increase visitor numbers to 2.5 million by 2016 offers opportunities for UK companies in the leisure and tourism sector.

Market overview

Tourism is one of Sri Lanka’s growing industries. Sri Lanka’s 2012 tourist arrivals grew by over 30% from the previous year, hitting 1 million visitors. The Government’s goal is to make it the country’s single largest foreign exchange earner by 2020.

The highest number of tourist arrivals is from India with British tourists coming in second while staying longer and spending more.

Tourism industry development objectives for 2011-2016 include:

  • Increasing tourist arrivals to 2.5m visitors.

  • Attracting USD 3,000m as Foreign Direct Investment.

  • Quadrupling current tourism-related employment and expanding tourism industry services across the island.

  • Increasing foreign exchange earnings from USD 500m to USD 2.75bn.

  • Using tourism to improve global trade and economic linkages.

The Government aims to capitalise on the country’s natural advantages (forests, wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, and beaches), its strong and unique cultural heritage as well as contemporary tourist attractions such as luxury Ayurveda spas.

Key opportunities

Hotels & Projects

With 400% growth in tourist arrivals expected from 2011 to 2016, the industry needs to at least double current hotel room capacity within that time. Substantial infrastructure projects are underway for the development of tourism zones on the Southern, Western and Eastern coastal belt.

Opportunities for UK companies can be direct investments, joint ventures, provision of goods or design and engineering consultancy services.

UK companies may consider investing in premium rate boutique hotels, catering for high spending tourists that Sri Lanka is targeting as opposed to mass market customers.

Potential tourism projects include not only hotels, but also:

  • Golf courses

  • Theme parks

  • Marinas

  • Shopping Malls

  • Adventure Sports

  • Light Aircraft Services and Sea Planes

  • Boat Manufacturing / Hiring

  • Convention / Exhibition Centres

  • Gaming Centres

Developing Tourism Industry Professionals

Significant opportunities exist for UK education and training providers to tie up with local universities, industry partners, private sector education and training providers to deliver short-term programmes and/or professional qualifications.

The Sri Lankan Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (a Government agency) has an annual output of approximately 1500 graduates – insufficient to meet the growing industry requirements.

Sri Lanka’s Global Appeal

By tying up with local partners, UK tour and adventure companies could broaden their customer base and increase their product offering.

Sri Lanka is also a renowned filming location. Films partly or entirely shot in Sri Lanka include the Oscar winning 1957 film – The Bridge on the River Kwai, Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom, The Second Jungle Book, Oscar- nominated Water, Midnight’s Children and A Common Man. Sri Lanka has also been a location choice for international television productions and music videos.

UK event management or promotional companies looking for new overseas locations for international/regional events, exhibitions, concerts, etc. might also consider Sri Lanka, a unique and cost-effective option.

The country has recently hosted events such as the ICC World Cup, SAF Games, International Indian Film Awards, Colombo Night Races and beach games (surfing, volleyball, rugby, etc.). It has also hosted concerts for international artistes such as Sean Kingston, Taio Cruz, Sir Cliff Richards, UB40, Bryan Adams, Shaggy, RIO, Edward Maya, Mohombi, Sasha Lopez and Jay Sean.

Latest export opportunities in the Leisure & Tourism sector

Latest export opportunities in Sri Lanka

Getting into the market

The Government encourages foreign investors to enter the market via the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka which serves as a central facilitation point offering tax and duty free incentives.

Additionally, the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority’s One Stop Unit (OSU) is a centralized promotion and facilitation centre established to specifically assist potential tourism investors. Both offices have land banks and provide guidance for site selection and long-term lease arrangements. Please note, outright purchase of land by a foreign company is not permitted, though there are certain grounds for exceptions.

More about doing business in Sri Lanka


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Asanthi Fernando, British High Commission, Colombo; Tel: +94 11 5390664; Email: [email protected]

  • Nadeesha Epasinghe, British High Commission, Colombo; Tel: +94 11 5390661; Email: [email protected]

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events in Leisure & Tourism sector

Major Events

Hotel, Hospitality & Food Sri Lanka 2013

27 – 29 September 2013

Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre


Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Leisure & Tourism
Countries: Sri Lanka
Export Action Plan