Long Haul

Sri Lanka is in the top three alongside Thailand and the Maldives as a tourist hotspot for long-haul travel, but still needs a vital mix of peace, competitive rates and new infrastructure to give it that edge.

Right up until last year, an average 300,000 tourists visited the island. This year numbers were expected to reach a record half a million. rn

rnPeace talks with the Tamil Tigers and a continued ceasefire took tourist arrivals surging, bolstered a war-hit economy and encouraged new investment in the sector.rn

rnMost of that traffic is still brought in by tour operators selling mass package tours endash the bread and butter – even as Sri Lanka tries to move to more high yield tourism.rn

rnThe largest single tour operator to Sri Lanka endash UK based Kuoni Travels will bring in 25,000 tourists this year and growing to an expected 30,000 in 2004.rn

rnKuoni has been selling Sri Lanka for the past 36 years, first bringing visitors to Trincomalee in 1982.rn

rnMost of the stays are