Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry shows record growth in March

Apr. 20 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s leisure industry greeted record 54,746 visitors in March, as key western countries warned nationals to avoid traveling to the north east of the country as violence intensified in the region. The tsunami-hit island welcomed 54,746 visitors (up 8.6 percent over 2005) in March, which helped swell arrivals for the three months to March 159,664, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board said Thursday.

“Our arrivals figures don’t reflect tsunami aid workers from abroad anymore. We are backed to traditional package tourist market now,” said Ruchira Piyasekera of the board’s statistics department.

Bulk of the package tourists come from Europe, with visitors from the continent rising 12.3 percent for the 12-months to March to 22,803.

Britain led the pack with 8,178 visitors (up 2.4 percent), closely followed by Germany, up 10.6 percent to 5,130.

Indian nationals however, continued to be the single largest group by destination, with 13,159 visitors (up 12.7 percent), as Sri Lanka continued to offer discount airline packages to attract visitors from its giant neighbor.

The tourist board hopes to greet 600,000 travellers this year, despite an upsurge in violence and travel alerts by U.S. and