Sign at the Earl’s Regency, Kandy.
Srilal Miththapala has an interesting article in the Daily Mirror about the Sri Lankan hotel industry. While tourists arrivals are the highest ever, hotel occupancy rates are not the same thing. I’ve heard and he’s cited hoteliers saying that occupancies are actually quite poor. But this isn’t exactly what it seems. People may not be staying in big chain hotels, but they could be staying in guest houses and other off-griddier locations.
A study done by the writer last year and published under the heading ‘Tourist Arrivals – Food for Thought’, looked at the arrivals statistics in comparison with the foreign guest nights (FGN) in graded and supplementary establishments, as given by the SLTDA. FGN gives an accurate indication of the number of tourists who actually stayed in graded tourist establishments and this study revealed that of the total arrivals of 654,476 recorded for 2010, only 82% were ‘real tourists’ who stayed in proper hotels…
There does not appear to be too many such market signals of promotions and special offers, emanating from the lower category of hotels and smaller guest houses. This then could possibly mean that they are not doing too badly. A rudimentary telephone survey of a small sample set did seem to confirm this…
It appears that a larger number of tourists coming to Sri Lanka now are patronizing lower level, cheaper accommodation options. (Where have all the tourists gone?)
The author is clear that this is his postulation, hard stats on Sri Lanka tourism are not so detailed. But it is an interesting thought. I personally would never stay in or recommend a big chain hotel when there are so many great affordable guest houses and amazing boutique hotels. Big hotels tend to be the same wherever you are in the world, so to me it’s akin to staying in an airport. It’s also overpriced.
In addition to the guest house/boutique option, AirBnB has covered Sri Lanka pretty well. This peer-to-peer housing thing lets anyone rent out their home (or rooms in their home), and there are actually quite a few options in Sri Lanka. I haven’t used it yet but I’d like to.
All of these may drive hotel industry numbers down, but it could just mean that the hotel industry is changing. IMHO, for the better.