Sri Lanka tourist arrivals fall sharply as violence escalates

April 19, 2007 (LBO) – Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka fell by 36 percent to 35,031 in March 2007 compared with the same month last year as escalating fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels deterred holiday travel. But arrivals from Eastern Europe increased 60 percent with the number of Russian visitors increasing by 45.2 percent to 3,682. The fall in arrivals came on the back of an 18 percent drop in arrivals in February with key markets such as Western Europe, India and East Asia being the worst affected, according to Tourist Board statistics.

The downturn has badly affected the hotel industry, especially up-market resorts that cater to the more well-to-do travelers.

Arrivals from traditional markets like Western Europe have been affected by adverse travel warnings issued by their governments in response to increased violence in the island.

Arrivals from Western Europe, the main market for Sri Lanka, fell by 25.7 percent to 52,572 in the January-March period.

However, visitors from Eastern Europe, who appear less concerned about political troubles, increased during the period.

Total arrivals in Sri Lanka up to February were down 15.6 percent to 134,635 from 159,536 in 2006. A total of