Surge in tourism in Lanka, Indians top visitor

There was a surge in the number of foreign visitors to Sri Lanka, with Indians being the largest group of holiday makers.

Colombo: There was a surge in the number of foreign visitors to Sri Lanka, with Indians being the largest group of holiday makers last year amid efforts by the government to boost the sector following the end of a three-decade ethnic conflict in 2009.
The number of Indians visiting Sri Lanka last year jumped
35.1 per cent to 171,374 in 2011 compared to 126,882 in 2010,
the Tourism Development Authority said today.

Overall, the number of tourists visiting Sri lanka
increased to 855,000 from 654,000 in the previous year,
official figures showed.

There was a significant increase in the number of
Chinese tourists. They accounted for a modest 16,308, but
their increase over 2010 was a staggering 56.4 per cent
showing the growing Chinese interest in the country.

The number of Pakistan tourists recorded an even bigger
increase with 14,724 arriving in 2011, up 61 per cent from the
9,148 arrivals in 2010.
Officials were concerned that the new online-visa system
which replaced the visa on arrival from the start of this year
may affect the tourist traffic from South Asian nations as
well as European markets.

Nationals from SAARC countries must pay USD 10 as visa
processing fee while others must pay USD 20 with the exception
of Singaporeans and Maldivians who have been exempted from the
system on a reciprocal basis.

According to earlier reports, Sri Lanka has laid out
plans to transform its tourism sector into a leading driver of
economic growth, with the government aiming to woo FDI to the
tune of USD 3 billion over the next five years, after decades
of ethnic conflict the industry hard hit.

According to the `tourism development strategy
2011-2016`, Sri Lanka is aiming to raise its tourism earnings
by USD 2.25 billion by the year 2016 by increasing tourist
arrivals by almost 2 million.

The tourism sector, which is regarded to have great
potential, had been hit due to decades of militancy in the
country, which finally wiped out the LTTE in 2009, ending the
30-year-old conflict.


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