July 15, 2007 (AFP) – Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka plunged 30 percent in June compared to a year ago as fighting escalated in the country’s bitter ethnic war, the tourism board said Sunday. The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamil and the conflict has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972. Months of heavy fighting mainly in the north and east, but also attacks near the capital and the international airport saw tourist arrivals fall to 30,810 in June, compared to 44,066 last year despite sharp discount offers from hotels.
For the first six months of the year, overall tourist arrivals are down nearly 25 percent to 224,791 visitors, compared to the same period a year earlier, the Sri Lanka Tourism board said.
At the same time tourism earnings, a key source of foreign currency for the island nation, have declined 14.8 percent to 130.8 million dollars in the first four months of the year, according to the central bank.
Sri Lanka’s only international airport resumed around-the-clock operations this month after air raids by the Tamil Tiger rebels forced its closure at night from May.
Airlines use Sri Lanka as a transit point for travel between