July 19, 2007 (AFP) – Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said Thursday that it was pulling out of Sri Lanka, citing a sharp drop in tourist traffic to the tropical island due to ongoing fighting between government and rebel forces. Sri Lanka’s 26-billion-dollar economy earned 130.8 million dollars from tourism between January and April, a 15 percent drop over last year. Tourism is one of the main foreign currency earners, along with garments and tea.
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“After extensive market analysis, we have decided to discontinue our services between Colombo and Abu Dhabi from September 9,” the airline’s manager for Sri Lanka, Kumar de Silva, said in a statement.
“Emotionally, this has been a tough decision for us, because Colombo was one of our earliest destinations.”
Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka plunged 30 percent to 30,810 in June as compared with 44,066 a year earlier amid heavy fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.
For the six months through June, overall tourist arrivals were down nearly 25 percent to 224,791 visitors, compared to the same period a year earlier, the Sri Lanka tourism board said.