Sri Lanka, Nepal mull tourism, air links

Mar 31, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka and Nepal are discussing joint tourism packages that combine the attractions of Himalayan hikes with Indian Ocean beaches, the island’s international trade minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris said. Collective action by south Asian countries such as broadening trade in services like tourism could help them better cope with the effects of the global economic crisis, he said.

“We need to strengthen linkages in this region,” he told a conference on broadening economic integration in south Asia by incorporating services liberalization organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, a think-tank.

The Nepalese government had suggested a joint tourism promotion package during a recent state visit by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Himalayan kingdom, Peiris said.

He said tourists could be offered a week in the Himalayas in Nepal and another week enjoying the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in Sri Lanka.

“We’re soon going to have flights from Colombo to Kathmandu via New Delhi,” Peiris said. “Direct flights are not financially viable so we’re now negotiating fifth freedom rights with India.”

Fifth freedom rights would allow Sri Lankan Airline to pick up passengers from De