Sri Lanka Aims to Attract Chinese Tourists to Alleviate Debt Crisis
Sri Lanka is looking to entice Chinese tourists in an effort to address its unprecedented debt crisis, according to the country’s Tourism Minister, Harin Fernando. In a press briefing held in Beijing, Fernando announced plans to target half a million Chinese tourists in 2024, nearly double the pre-Covid levels. By assuming an average expenditure of $5,000 per tourist, the minister suggested that the resulting revenue could rival the recent $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
The country received the IMF loan in March and is currently working towards a debt restructuring agreement. Bilateral debt talks with China are also underway, as China is among the major creditors alongside Paris Club members and India. As part of the strategy, Sri Lanka is considering offering free tourist visas to Chinese travellers until November and encouraging Chinese airlines to increase the number of flights to the country. Sri Lanka has faced significant economic challenges due to inflation, food shortages, power cuts, and a decline in tourism caused by terrorist attacks in 2019 and the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic. Rebuilding the tourism industry, with a focus on attracting Chinese visitors, is seen as crucial to the global recovery of the sector, although Chinese outbound travel remains below pre-pandemic levels.