Sri Lanka pushes sports events to revive tourism

August 16, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka wants to use sports events like a forthcoming marathon to entice more tourists to the island and rebuild an image tarnished by war and allegations of human rights abuses, officials said. The number of tourists to Sri Lanka fell 20 percent to 44,142 in July and arrivals in the first seven months are down 24 percent to 268,000. Events are an important factor for today’s tourist, who prefers to travel alone rather than in groups, said Renton De Alwis, chairman of the Tourist Board.

The authorities are holding the Colombo Marathon in the first week of October, for the eighth time, and hope regular marathon runners as well as international title holders will participate in the annual run from this year onwards.

“Events play a very important role in tourism today and we want to establish events like the Colombo Marathon as specific events and really build them up,” Alwis told a news conference.

The 42-kilometer marathon will be flagged off from the ministry of sports at the Torrington Square in the heart of Colombo and end in Negombo, a beach resort town close to the international air port.

The tourist board and tourism ministry hope to promote the event internationally to