Sri Lanka eyes US$3.5b tourism boom this year

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

SRI Lanka aims to make a record US$3.5 bil­lion from tourism this year on the back of its im­proved rights record un­der a new gov­ern­ment after years of eth­nic war, its tourism min­is­ter said.

Tourism on the In­dian Ocean is­land suf­fered heav­ily dur­ing a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009, but has been re­cov­er­ing in re­cent years.

Tourism Min­is­ter John Amaratunga said the num­ber of for­eign hol­i­day mak­ers ar­riv­ing on the is­land had jumped by 15 per­cent to 1.5 mil­lion in the first nine months of 2016, and he ex­pected tourism revenues to hit $3.5 bil­lion for the year as a whole.

He at­trib­uted the trend to an im­prove­ment in the is­land’s in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for rights fol­low­ing the oust­ing last year of for­mer pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japakse, who was widely crit­i­cised over a se­ries of al­leged abuses.

“The im­prove­ment of our hu­man rights record is some­thing that helped achieve this growth,” Mr Amaratunga told re­porters in Colombo.

“The new gov­ern­ment has had a very pos­i­tive re­sponse from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and it helped the in­dus­try.”

The new gov­ern­ment came to power in Jan­uary 2015 after promis­ing to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity for war crimes and repa­ra­tions for vic­tims, although progress on both fronts has been slow.

Western na­tions had cen­sured Sri Lanka and im­posed trade re­stric­tions after the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fused to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged war crimes by its troops while crush­ing Tamil Tiger rebels.

Tourists have long been at­tracted to Sri Lanka for its golden beaches, cul­tural sites and pic­turesque tea es­tates.

Most have his­tor­i­cally come from Western Europe, but the min­is­ter said the num­ber of Chi­nese hol­i­day­mak­ers had dou­bled last year to 224,000. –

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