Tourist arrivals could dip 20% this year, from expected record levels.

Tourist arrivals could dip 20 percent from over 560,000 expected this year, even as the industry throws together a package of incentives to jumpstart hotels hit by tidal waves. Tourist arrivals could dip 20 percent from over 560,000 expected this year, even as the industry throws together a package of incentives to jumpstart hotels hit by tidal waves.

A Cabinet paper to be submitted next week for duty free imports of hotel equipment and soft loans for the industry has got the un-official go-ahead, Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike said on Thursday.

The industry is in talks with donors for up to Rs. 200 mn to be set aside to roll out soft loans for tourism support industries that were damaged or destroyed in the tsunami.

“We are looking at about Rs. 200 mn set aside for soft loan schemes for the small and medium sector, at six to seven percent interest, one year grace and repayable over five years,” Director General of the Tourist Board, S. Kalaiselvam said.

The industry is also exploring possibilities of deferring collection of the one percent turnover tax charged on hotels for tourism promotions, until March.

“We are also asking Cabinet to suspend the