The Sri Lanka Government established the Ceylon Tourist Board in 1966. The Board’s primary responsibility was to revitalise the tourism industry. Operating as an autonomous corporation, the Board had promotional and organisational responsibilities. Provisions for the tourists were largely based in the private sector, although the Board had facilities in areas where the private sector one establishments were considered inadequate.
Tourism expanded rapidly after 1966. The beach resorts were the main attractions while the ancient cities such as Anuradhapura, the historic city of Kandy, and the mountainous region dominated by the tea plantations were the other attractions to visit. Between 1976 and 1982, tourist arrivals increased 24% per annum, rising to 407,230 before dropping to 337,342 in 1983. A large bulk of the tourists was coming from Western Europe.
The civil conflict that started in July 1983 and had adversely affected tourism, with arrival figures reducing 43%, year on year (1982-3). Total arrivals were 230,106 in 1986, down 43% from 1982. The Ceylon Tourist Board provided a range of concessions to the industry in order to help them survive the crisis. In 1987, tourist arrivals declined 23% year on year (1986-7). In the mid-1980’s, the declining security situation began to have an increasingly negative impact on the Sri Lankan economy, and in early 1988 economic prospects for the 1990’s appeared to be linked in part to a resolution of the ethnic conflict.
Sri Lanka’s climate is rather complicated for such a small country, due to the fact that the island is affected by two separate monsoons – though this also means that there is usually good weather somewhere on the island, at most times of the year. When thinking about the best time to visit Sri Lanka, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that the basic pattern described below can vary significantly from year to year, and that global warming has disrupted these already complex weather patterns.
The basic rainfall pattern is as follows. The main southwest (“yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coasts and hill country from April/May to September (wettest from April to June). The less severe northeast (“maha”) monsoon hits the east coast from November to March (wettest from November to December); there’s also a inter-monsoonal period of unsettled weather preceding the Maha monsoon in October and November during which heavy rainfall and thunderstorms can occur anywhere across the island. In practical terms, this means that the best time to visit the west and south coasts and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
Sri Lanka’s position close to the Equator means that temperatures remain fairly constant year-round. Coastal and lowland areas enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 26–30°C (often climbing up well into the 30°Cs during the hottest part of the day). Temperatures decrease with altitude, reducing to a temperate 18–22°C in Kandy, and a pleasantly mild 14–17°C in Nuwara Eliya and the highest parts of the island – nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing. Humidity is high everywhere, rising to a sweltering ninety percent at times in the southwest, and averaging sixty to eighty percent across the rest of the island.