Sri Lanka tourist trade seen recovering fast

Mar 06, 2010 (LBO) – Over half-a-million tourists are expected to visit Sri Lanka this year as the travel trade bounces back strongly from the effects of a war with hotels so heavily booked that some are even refusing new reservations till end of March, officials said.

Tourism authorities have planned an aggressive global promotion campaign to lure visitors with events like night surfing and also attempts to tap the Sri Lankan diaspora to spread the word about the island’s attractions.

With tourist arrivals up 31.9 percent in January alone from a year ago, the authorities expect the total number of visitors this year to increase by 25 – 30 percent given post-war revivals elsewhere.

“If you look at countries like Croatia and Vietnam, they experienced immediate growth in the tourism sector after the war end,” says Dileep Mudadeniya, managing director of Sri Lanka Tourist Promotion Bureau.

Sri Lanka’s 30-year ethnic war ended in May 2009, resulting in an immediate increase in tourist arrivals.

The revival has prompted international agencies to offer help to modernize tourism infrastructure.

Japan International Corporation Agency has offered 20 million US dollars to improve infrastructure in five towns that tourists frequently visit; Anuradhap