Travel TrendsThe country works on plans to offer digital nomad visas and boost tourism offerings such as ecotourism.

Sri Lanka taps emerging travel market of digital nomads in re-opening plans

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Sri Lanka reopens with a positive outlook on ecotourism that helps local communities.
Sri Lanka reopens with a positive outlook on ecotourism that helps local communities. Photo Credit: gettyimages/Ozbalci

After Sri Lanka opened to fully vaccinated inbound travellers in early October without the need to quarantine, hoteliers and tour operators reported an immediate increase in enquiries and bookings.

Anchored by its clear and consistent international arrivals policy, Sri Lanka’s tourism ministry is swinging into action with a promotion campaign targeting some of its biggest source markets: India, Britain, Germany, France, and Russia.

One of the campaign’s focuses will be the success of the teardrop-shaped island nation’s vaccination programme.

Almost 63% of Sri Lanka’s 22 million were fully immunised as of 4 November, and more than one million frontline workers and tourism staff will soon receive a third booster shot, as part of tourism recovery efforts. The sector plays a significant role in the nation’s economy, contributing 12.6% to GDP in 2019.

The tourism ministry is also zooming in on what has been called the travel sector’s newest emerging target: digital nomads, who reportedly wield a collective US$787 billion in spending power, and whose numbers have increased dramatically during the pandemic. Around 15.5 million people in the US describe themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 112% from 2019, according to management company MBO Partners.

Although it is yet to be finalised, Sri Lanka will soon join a steadily growing list of nations offering a digital nomad visa. Reported to cost US$500, it will allow foreigners to work in the country for an international employer or on a freelance basis for international clients for up to a year.

For remote workers wishing to combine work and travel, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer says David Abraham, co-founder and CEO of Outpost, Bali’s biggest network of co-working and co-living spaces that has catered for remote workers since 2016.

Outpost is expanding to Sri Lanka in December, with a property overlooking a surf break in Weligama Bay on the island’s southern coast.

“Sri Lanka has a rich history, an enthusiasm to welcome people, and a vibrant surf scene. We think Sri Lanka’s time has come, and it’s great to see that it’s reopening efficiently,” said Abraham. Since the country reopened, several of Outpost’s local partners have received an influx of long-stay guests.

Driving Ecotourism

Meanwhile, with demand for short-term leisure travel also returning, Khiri Travel Sri Lanka has created four ecotourism tours for visitors eager to explore nature and give back. Guests can sail with a marine biologist to spot blue whales, hike through pepper, cinnamon, and coffee plantations, donate to a reforestation foundation, and assist on a seaweed restoration project.

The island is an ideal destination for eco-travellers, said Jetwing Hotels’ marketing manager and grandson of its founder, Hashan Cooray. Set across five distinct man-made natural habitats, its Jetwing Vil Uyana property has been called Sri Lanka’s most successful ecotourism initiative.

“Sri Lanka has numerous national parks while the highlands are covered in either cultivation or natural jungles. We’re probably one of the greenest countries in the world, and tourism has an important part to play in environmental conservation,” he said.

It will soon be easier to fly to Sri Lanka, with seven new airlines operating direct flights to the capital Colombo from this month, including Air France and Russian Airlines, while Swiss Air is due to touch down in the country by the end of the year.



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