Arundika Fernando, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, talks about tourism in Sri Lanka at the World Travel Market.
Over recent years tourism to Sri Lanka has seen marked growth. In 2014 the number of international tourists arriving on the island rose to 1,138,000 – up 4.7 per cent on the 2013 total. During the same period, tourism became the third largest source of foreign currency entering the Sri Lankan economy.
Things are now looking positive but for a generation, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was hampered by war. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, often referred to as the Tamil Tigers, took up arms in 1983 for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island. The struggle came to an end in 2009.
“We had a war, now it’s a free country, a very safe country. We already had tourists in Sri Lanka but now it’s a grown-up destination. Most of the big hotel chains are in Sri Lanka now. They are starting their businesses and the airlines are interested in coming to Sri Lanka,” explains Mr Fernando as we chat on a sofa on the upper level of the Sri Lankan stand.
Eight experiences in eight days
“We are now aiming for eight unique experiences that you can get in eight days in Sri Lanka. One is heritage, Sri Lanka has a very good history. Unawatuna, one of the beaches down south in Sri Lanka, has been named as the best beach in the world,” claims the deputy minister.
He lists Sri Lanka’s festivals and tea plantations among the country’s key attractions.
“We have a good climate, waterfalls and scenic beauty. We have wildlife – you can see whales and elephants,” he says with enthusiasm. “You can go windsurfing and kitesurfing. Within a very short time, you can experience a lot of things on our island.”
Transport within Sri Lanka
“Sri Lanka, at one time, was a British colony. The British started the rail and road system in Sri Lanka. Based on that we have developed. There are a lot of highways. We are developing the domestic airports and we have two international airports,” he answers when I ask what it’s like getting around on the island.
Developing Sri Lanka’s tourism potential
“The Sri Lanka Tourist Board, we have planned a joint operation with the private sector; the hotel chains, travel companies and tour operators,” says the deputy minister when I ask him how Sri Lanka is going about developing tourism further.
Sri Lanka’s number one market is currently its neighbour from the other side of the Palk Strait, India. “The UK is the second in the list, as far as arrivals is concerned. This is the future,” suggests Mr Fernando.
In 2014 153,875 United Kingdom passport holders arrived in Sri Lanka, up from the 2013 total of 135,425. That number was just 81,682 in 2009, when peace returned to the tropical island.
Sri Lanka is now looking to further build on those numbers.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s website has more details about attractions, activities and destinations on the island.
SriLankan Airlines flies from destinations around the world to its hub at Bandaranaike International Airport on the edge of Colombo.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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