Wildlife Tourism in Sri Lanka: A Different Narrative Needed?

Wildlife tourism is a fast growing segment of world tourism, more so after the pandemic as many tourists now seek the outdoors and the natural environment. Sri Lanka has much to offer in this space but we are still ‘treading the same old cow path’ promoting the same offering.

Current day tourists are looking for a more immersive experience and understanding of wildlife. We have to therefore respond by changing our approach and message. A different narrative is needed urgently to reach out to this important segment.

According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), world wildlife tourism accounts for 7% of the world tourism industry and is growing at an annual growth about 3%, wildlife tourism currently employs 22 million people worldwide directly or indirectly, and contributes more than $ 120 billion to global GDP. Hence it is obvious that it forms a main component of world tourism in the future. This could be larger in the immediate future, since post-pandemic travellers are seeking out more outdoor and nature related, immersive experiences during their travels.

In Sri Lanka also this is a rapidly growing segment, where close to 50% of all tourists visiting the country made at least one visit to a wildlife park in 2018 (by far the best year for tourism in Sri Lanka). This was a marked increase from some 20% in 2015.

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