Tourists flock to Sri Lanka in Jan

Mar. 02 (LBO) — Sri Lanka’s tsunami-hit hospitality industry made a comeback in January, as holidaymakers flocked to the island. However, internal battles to revamp marketing efforts and restructure the industry remain. Arrivals to Sri Lanka, famed for its beaches and eco-tourism, in January this year were up 36.8 percent over 2005 to 52,231 travellers.

That is still a 4.6 percent jump over the non-tsunami hit base of January 2004, with top officials expecting the island to make a complete recovery this year.

“The January figures are encouraging and we are estimating that we will get a record 600,000 tourists this year,” Prathap Ramanujam, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, said Thursday.

The Tourist Board expects February arrivals to be even higher than January numbers at about 55,000 tourists.

Overseas aid campaigning by non-governmental agencies for tsunami relief work is also no longer affecting arrivals or Sri Lanka’s image negatively, Ramanujam said.

“From January’s arrival figures, we can see this is not a major issue now.” Industry apex body, the Tourist Board is continuing with domestic and overseas marketing campaigns.

However, internal plans to restructure the Sri Lanka