Sri Lanka post-war tourist arrivals pick up

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 8.1 percent in June from a year ago, its first rise since May last year, the Indian Ocean island nation’s tourism board said, a month after the government ended a 25-year war.

Arrivals in Jan-June fell 16.3 percent to 187,729 compared to 224,363 a year ago, mainly due to a drop in visitors from western Europe and south Asia, data showed on Thursday.

Sri Lanka received 438,475 visitors in 2008, a drop of 11.2 percent from a year earlier. Tourist revenue declined by 11.2 percent to $342 million as visitors stayed away because of intense fighting.

“We expect the arrivals and revenue to remain the same this year as all rooms are already sold. But next year we expect half a million arrivals and $400 million in earnings,” S. Kalaiselvam, director general at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority told Reuters.

Britain last week relaxed an advisory warning of travel to Sri Lanka but continued to caution citizens of visiting the north. The United States said last month its travel warning was still active. Britain and the United States together made up a quarter of last year’s arrivals.

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