Sri Lanka joins hands with Maldives to promote tourism

Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has teamed up with the neighbouring island paradise of the Maldives to woo tourists from China, Russia and the Middle East, officials said Tuesday. Sri Lanka’s 26-billion-dollar economy earned nearly 400 million dollars from tourism last year, the fourth largest foreign currency earner behind tea, clothing and remittances from abroad. The Maldives, South Asia’s most exotic holiday destination, hopes the joint effort will help convince well-heeled tourists to stop in Sri Lanka and then visit the Indian Ocean atoll nation.

“The Maldives offer beach tourism while Sri Lanka offers beach, nature and cultural packages to visitors. We see synergies for joint marketing,” Maldivian deputy tourism minister Abdul Hameed Zakariyya told reporters here.

The archipelago attracted more than 600,000 visitors last year, mostly celebrities and big spenders from Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Zakariyya hopes to see 690,000 tourist arrivals by year’s end.

Tourism accounts for the bulk of the Maldivian economy of just under one billion dollars, making it the richest nation in South Asia with a per capita income of 2,674 dollars.