Peace talks could salvage Sri Lanka’s peak winter tourist season

Chandi Dharmaratne

Sept 15 (LBO) – Arrivals to Sri Lanka from some European tourist markets saw another month of declines in August, but tour operators say possible peace talks this year could change that by winter.

European travellers have been cautiously holding off on visiting the troubled island in the past few months, with top markets like the United Kingdom falling 10.4 percent to 9,425 tourists in August.

The United Kingdom is Sri Lanka’s second biggest tourist market after India, with Britons spending over 21 billion sterling pounds a year on holidays.

Some other European markets like Germany has fallen by 19.6 percent to over 3200 tourists in August, with marginal declines in smaller markets like Denmark, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board said.

Norway, which is also facilitating Sri Lanka’s peace process, has seen a big drop in arrivals from January to August this year, falling by nearly 29 percent to just over 3,400 visitors.

All South Asian markets have stayed strong, with India still Sri Lanka’s top generating market. Indians continued to flock here in August, with arrivals growing 27.8 percent to 11,689 tourists.

Sri Lanka has seen an upsurge in violence since December l