Sri Lanka greets fewer visitors in Sept; hopes peace, discount airfares will reverse fortunes

Oct 13, 2006 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s visitor arrivals in September fell 12 percent, but the Tourism Board is hoping discount airfares and peace talks between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels would stem the slide. Holidaymakers to this tear shaped island fell 11.6 percent to 38,485 visitors in September over the corresponding period 2005, as government troops stepped up attacks on Tamil Tiger positions and security forces intensified checks throughout Colombo city.

“Until very recently bookings were really slow,” Secretary to the Tourism Ministry, Prathap Ramanujam said referring to dismal visitor arrival figures.

“But with the two party agreement (government and main opposition forging an alliance) and possible peace talks at the end of the month, as well as discount airfares from SriLankan Airlines, the industry is quite confident of the November/December winter season,” he told LBO.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse offered cabinet posts to the main opposition on Thursday in a bid to strike a bipartisan deal to end the island’s ethnic bloodshed.

Rajapakse met with opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe invited his United National Party (UNP) to join the cabinet and work towards solvin