June 13, 2008 (LBO) – Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka rose a steep 18.5 percent in May against a sharp fall last year but cumulative figures were little changed amidst bad publicity from an internal conflict, the latest official data showed. The number of arrivals increased by 1.2 percent to 196,403 for the first five months of the year, according to statistics issued by the tourist authority.
Arrivals in April dropped ten percent following the end of the peak tourist season during the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
News of escalating fighting between Tamil Tigers and government forces and bomb blasts in the capital blamed on the Tigers also deterred visitors.
Some recovery was evident from the downturn in 2007 as arrivals in May 2008 were up 18.4 percent to 31,140 from 26,307 the same month a year before.
In May 2007, Sri Lanka’s only international airport was closed for night traffic after a couple of air raids by Tamil Tiger guerillas that caused more sensation and security scares than actual damage.
With anti-aircraft fire lighting up the night sky, and some foreign airlines suspending flights, tourist arrivals plunged by double digit percentages.
Arrivals in May 2007 fell 40 percent from the 4