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Sri Lanka’s hotels overcharging for rooms: minister

July 11, 2013 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's hotels are overcharging for rooms in an attempt to cash in on growing visitor numbers after a decades-long war, a minister said Thursday.

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Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said some hotels had hiked up room rates 10-fold since the end of the war in 2009 without improving service.

"Soon after the war, the industry took off and people started investing in hotels. Existing hotels which were charging $50 to $60 suddenly increased rates to $600," he said, describing the rates as "unrealistic".

"These high rates are destroying the entire tourism industry," Abeywardena told reporters in Colombo, arguing that the country could pocket more from an increased number of visitors if room rates were lower.

The minister made the comments after giving formal approval for development of an $850 million "mixed development" complex -- an official euphemism for a casino and hotel -- in the capital.

"We can't impose a ceiling on rates, but they should realise that they are sending tourists to much more value-for-money destinations like Thailand and Malaysia," Abeywardena said of some hotel owners.

"We should keep

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