Sri Lanka expects tourism boost from devout visitors

Jan 08, 2008 (LBO) – The arrival of a spiritual leader and his followers for a religious ceremony in Sri Lanka will boost foreign visitors in January, the war ravaged island’s tourism promotion officials said Tuesday. Some 30,000 members of the Bohra community are expected for the 10-day Ashara Mubaraka ceremony starting January 9.

His holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, will initiate the ceremony which marks the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussain.

Some 10,000 visitors have already arrived in Sri Lanka for the ceremony and officials expect the visitors will also visit places of interest after the ceremony.

“We are sure that they will make excursions to other parts of Sri Lanka,” Faizer Mustapha, deputy minister of tourism, told reporters.

The island’s tourism industry has been hit hard by renewed violence between Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces with the Tigers also staging bomb attacks in the capital Colombo.

In the latest attack Tuesday, government minister D.M. Dassanayake was killed in a claymore mine attack in Ja-Ela, closer to the international airport north of Colombo.

Gunmen