Sri Lanka tourism to get ‘Barmy Army’ innings

June 4, 2007 (AFP) – Advance bookings for England’s winter cricket tour of Sri Lanka has been rising steadily even as fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels escalates, officials said on Monday. A tour organising official at Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said at least 4,000 bookings by British cricket fans have been almost finalised and more were in the pipeline.

“We are very happy with the response,” the SLC official told AFP.

The cricket board is teaming up with the island’s tourism authority to have special counters at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and at Colombo airport here, to handle the “Barmy Army”, as English supporters are called.

England will tour Sri Lanka in two stages, with the one-day internationals being played in October and the three-Test series in December.

Sri Lanka’s tourism officials expect the tour to lift sagging arrival figures, which have suffered from the violence with nearly 5,000 people killed in the past 18 months.
The SLC official said British fans seemed undeterred.

“You must remember that England tour in 2001-02 attracted a huge contingent of fans despite the (rebel) attack on the airport just six months before the tour,” he said.