To check the claim on the ‘collapse’ of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry following the Easter attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic, FactCheck.lk compared the change in performance of tourism earnings after April 2019 and after March 2020 (when COVID-19 restrictions were introduced) against the past. The data was drawn from External Sector statistics published by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
In 2018, reported earnings from tourism amounted to USD 4,380.6 million. In 2019 reported earnings decreased by USD 773.7 million to USD 3,606.9 million (a decline of 17.7%). All of this decline (and more) occurred after April 2019, with a decline of USD 816.8 million from May to December 2019 compared to the same period in 2018 (see Exhibit 1 and 2).
In 2020 reported earnings from tourism further decreased to just USD 682.4 million (a decline of 84.4% against 2018). Almost all of the earnings recorded was between January to March 2020, with less than USD 1 million in earnings in the nine months after that.
These figures support the state minister’s characterisation of the tourism industry as having ‘collapsed’ following the Easter attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state minister also claimed the loss to be an average of USD 5 billion in the two years. The annual growth of tourism earnings exceeded 10% prior to 2018. Even at a growth rate of only 10% the tourism earnings would have been USD 4,818.7 million and USD 5,300.6 million in 2019 and 2020, which averages to just over USD 5 billion a year.
Therefore, the state minister’s claims that (i) the tourism industry collapsed due to the Easter attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic; and (ii) USD 5 billion per year in earnings was lost as a result; are substantiated by the data. Therefore, we classify his statement as TRUE.
**FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.
Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Statistics, Statistical Tables, External Sector , Earnings from Tourism (2009 January to Latest) Table, available at: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk/en/statistics/statistical-tables/external-sector [last accessed 19 July 2021]