Four conferences in Sri Lanka cancelled on security fears

August 22, 2006 (LBO) – Four global conferences to be hosted by Sri Lanka later this year have been cancelled on security fears, though the island is confident it can woo at least half a million tourists by December. The events, including a textile conference, were to host at least a thousand people, Prathap Ramanujam, Secretary to the tourism ministry, told LBO on Tuesday.

But hotels in the Colombo city and its suburbs are full with athletes’ and visitors for the South Asian Games hosted by Sri Lanka, which ends on August 28.

“We already have about 300,000 tourists visiting the country in the first half of the year and we will definitely cross the half a million mark by the end of the year, though our target is 600,000,” Ramanujam said.

Numbers of tourists are counted based on foreign passport holders who enter the country and stay for more than 24 hours, in line with international definitions.

Arrivals can be misleading with the industry estimating about 10 to 20 percent of Indian arrivals Sri Lanka’s biggest tourist market — to be traders who do not stay in hotels, but in private lodgings around Colombo.

Sri Lanka has seen an outbreak of fighting between the government and Tamil Tig

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