Sri Lanka tourism slumps in Dec, authorities pin hopes on India and Middle East

Jan 11, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s leisure industry closed 2006 a neck ahead of the previous year, but the troubled island saw a sharp downturn December, as internal strife intensified and travel advisories kept visitors away.

Sri Lanka lured 559,603 visitors last year, a slim 1.9 percent jump over 2005, but fell far short of the 600,000 target set by the islands tourism promotion agency.

Arrivals plummeted from the usually resilient Indian subcontinent Sri Lanka’s biggest tourism market, as well as Western Europe in the peak winter season of month of December.

Arrivals from India fell 19 percent to 8615 tourists in December, though it was up 13.3 percent over the previous year to 128,370 travelers, as at end 2006.

The industry has been pinning hopes on India and other regional markets to pull it through tough times of escalating local conflict and travel advisories from mostly European markets.

Arrivals from France and Germany, which issued tough travel advisories, plummeted 47 percent and 24.9 percent in December, while other lucrative European markets like the Netherlands and UK dropped by 40 percent and 25.2 percent.

Sri Lanka hopes to step up promotional campaigns in India and the Middle East to