Sri Lanka to entice Arab tourists in deal with Al-Jazeera

Feb 13, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is targeting Middle Eastern visitors by tying up with Al-Jazeera TV to make up for dwindling numbers from traditional European markets, officials said.

“There is a need to be more aggressive in promoting the country’s image among Middle East travellers,” deputy minister of tourism Faiszer Musthapha told a news conference Wednesday.

“We want to tap into the opportunities which abound in the Middle East because there is a lot of disposable income.

“The flight connectivity for the Middle East is the best out of all countries,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s tourism promotion efforts will also focus heavily on the UK, the former colonial ruler that has long been a traditional source of visitors, as well as India, Russia and Middle East this year.

“A wealthy Arab population coupled with a large number of expatriates will provide an ideal opportunity for Sri Lanka to be one of the most preferred destinations for them which is only four and a half hours away,” Musthapha said.

Tourist arrivals from the Middle East market grew 31 percent in 2007 while traffic from other markets except Russia fell.

Middle Eastern travellers are lo