As in education, Sri Lanka had been a growing market for Australian tourism prior to the pandemic. The launch of direct flights between the two countries in 2017 further boosted Sri Lankan demand for Australian tourism; more than 40,000 Sri Lankans visited Australia in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic cut arrivals in 2020 and 2021. The ongoing pandemic points to another year of uncertainty for education and tourism exports in 2022.
Sri Lanka was Australia’s 42nd largest trading partner in 2020. Total goods and services trade amounted to $1.3 billion in 2020, about 0.2% of Australia’s total trade portfolio. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted bilateral trade over the past two years. Goods exports to Sri Lanka consist mostly of vegetables, wheat, paper and paperboard, motor vehicles and milk. Goods imports from Sri Lanka are made up of mostly of clothing, textiles and tea.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated international travel restrictions disproportionately hurt services trade over the past two years. Before the pandemic, Sri Lankan students studying in Australia had been increasing significantly from a low level. Enrolments remained broadly stable in 2020. This is partly because many Australian education providers that operate in Sri Lanka, including Monash University, the Australian College of Business and Technology and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology all offer distance learning programs.
Bilateral investment between Sri Lanka and Australia remains small. Australia’s development program will support Sri Lanka’s efforts to enhance health security and advance economic development.