The percentage of foreign tourists visiting Sri Lanka’s national parks has doubled this year (2010) with the conclusion of the island’s long civil war in May 2009, a senior government official said on Saturday.
Chandrawansa Pathiraja, director general of Botanical Gardens and Wildlife Conservation Department said normally 10 percent of foreign tourists who come to Sri Lanka visit wildlife parks, but it has increased to 20 percent since January.
Sri Lanka’s civil war between the government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels concluded in May 2009, paving the way for the booming of the island’s tourism. The number of tourist arrivals have doubled, and is steadily growing month on month.
“During the last three decades several wildlife parks in the country were closed for tourists due to the war,” said Pathiraja, adding that at present all parks are open for visitors without any restriction.
He said the government has already commenced a special program to upgrade the facilities in wildlife parks.
Sri Lanka’s only island wildlife park Pigeon Island in the eastern Trincomallee district would be opened to tourists soon, Pathiraja said.
He said some areas in the war affected Northern Province including Nayaru, Kokilai and Chundikulam would be developed as wildlife parks too.
Sri Lanka has maintained an average of 500,000 tourist arrivals annually during civil war in the last three decades and the government is expecting 765,000 tourists by 2011 and 2.5 million in 2016.
“We expect over 600,000 tourists to visit Sri Lanka by the end of this year and of them 120,000 tourists enjoy the wild beauty of Sri Lanka,” Pathiraja said.