Rethink Sri Lanka
Perceptions of a place can be an opaque mix of truths, half-truths, rumours, prejudices and ignorance. Is Sri Lanka what many in Europe think it is? Or is conventional wisdom wrong?
June 6th, 2012
NOT ANY MORE. While Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long conflict put off investors and tourists alike, since 2009 there has been a complete cessation of violence, and investment - particularly from China and India - is flourishing after being held back. Like everywhere in South Asia, Sri Lanka is a developing nation. GDP per capita is £1800 and the country ranks 89th out of 187 countries worldwide in the Human Development Index. But there is a burgeoning middle class - especially in the cities - and a 2009 global survey ranked Sri Lankans in the top ten in terms of happiness.’
Almost all travel to Sri Lanka is tourism, and it’s off the beaten track anyway...
PARTLY TRUE. 80% of Sri Lanka Airlines’ business is tourism travel, but while business travel figures are lower than the company would like, they are increasing. Tourism is expanding at a staggering rate; at last count, 197 hotel projects were underway which, when completed, will add a further 12,579 rooms. In 2009, tourism revenue was just £252m from 450,000 arrivals – making up less than 1% of GDP. It has now passed £650m and the target is 2.5m tourism arrivals by 2016.
Sri Lanka is a particularly difficult place to do business
FALSE. While not yet at Western European levels, recent reforms implemented by Sri Lanka have helped create a much better business environment for entrepreneurs than can be found in its neighbours in the region. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Review 2012 saw the country rise 9 places in only a year, making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world. Ranked at 89th globally, it comes in 32 places higher than the regional average and 43 places higher than India.