Sri Lanka lures back Japanese surfers

arugambay_surfing(LBO) – Some of the world’s top surfers will take part in a Japanese surfing championship that returns to Sri Lanka this month after a five-year break following the end of the island’s ethnic war.

The Japan Pro Surfing Association’s (JPSA) annual competition will be held during March 19-23 at Hikkaduwa, a beach resort on the south-west coast.

The JPSA Pro Surf 2010 is being jointly organised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier.

Sri Lanka is the only country outside Japan where JPSA ranking events are held, Sri Lanka Airlines said in a statement.

The island attracts more than 800 Japanese surfers annually, both to Hikkaduwa and to Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.

The JPSA, Japan’s regulatory body for surfing which is a member of the global body Association of Surfing Professionals, had chosen the island for its event, starting in 2001.

But after five years, the island’s intensifying civil war saw it being shifted elsewhere.

The 30-year ethnic war ended in May 2009, resulting in an immediate upturn in tourist arrivals with many hotels fully booked during the main season which coincides with winter in the northern hemisphere.

“The return of Japanese Pro Surf to the resort of Hikkaduwa after a five-year absence is a major milestone for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which has been enjoying an extraordinary period of growth over the last nine months,” the statement said.

Achala Jagoda, Minister of Tourism, said they want to encourage off-season travelers and sports enthusiasts to visit the country.

Nishantha Wickremasinghe, chairman of SriLankan Airlines, which has three flights a week between Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Colombo, said Sri Lanka has long been a favourite destination of Japanese tourists.

“The number of tourists from Japan has been increasing rapidly following the end of the war nearly a year ago.”

This year’s surf competition will see eight world ranked surfers among the contestants battling it out for the three-million-rupee prize money.

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