July 16, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is scrambling to head off an imminent travel warning from Japan, in a bid to save the struggling tourism industry from a new blow, a top official said. Tourism secretary George Michael said Sri Lanka has learned of an imminent travel warning from Japan and tourism minister Milinda Moragoda had already met the Japanese envoy in Colombo.
Deputy tourism minister Faizer Mustapha was now in Tokyo for discussions with Japanese authorities to head off the travel warning, Michael told members of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka in Colombo.
In the first half of this year 5,100 Japanese had visited the island, becoming the second most important East Asian generating market after China which brought in 5,300 visitors. In the first six months of 2007, Japan was the top East Asian generating market.
In the full-year 2007 14,000 Japanese arrived in Sri Lanka, down from 16,000 in 2006, according to official data.
Sri Lanka has been badly hit by travel advisories, especially from Western countries which are the mainstay of the travel industry, with an intensifying conflict between the government and Tamil Tigers guerrillas.