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2014: Record year for Sri Lanka's tourism industry.

JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY

Sri Lanka's tourism industry has just experienced its best ever year, recording over 1.5 million tourist arrivals in 2014, according to government data. With numbers continuing to set records for 68 straight months in December 2014, totaling a 1,527,153 tourists, the island saw a 19.8 percent increase from the 1,274,593 that arrived during 2013. Sri Lanka's tourism industry has proved steady development by achieving an arrival target of 1.5 million tourists for the year 2014, and with a keen interest to draw in foreign exchange, the SLTDA is now eyeing a burgeon at the tourist arrival target in 2016 to 2.5 million. "I believe we have the capacity to host such a number because we will now be focusing on new markets in order to attract tourists," said Madubhani Perera, director of Marketing at Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), in a recent interview. "With substantial hotel investments in Sri Lanka - for example, Shangri-La, Hyatt, Marriot and Movenpick - as well as the opening up of the East coast and Kalpitiya for resort-hotel projects, the 50,000 rooms needed to meet the arrivals targets can be met." Tourism Minister Naveen Dissanayake confirmed in a recent statement that he will engage with tourism sector stakeholders effectively to boost the industry's future prospects. Hiran Cooray, chairman of Jetwing Hotels, one of the biggest chains of hotels in Sri Lanka, believes that the tourism industry is now poised for another wave of growth under President Maithripala Sirisena, Being a key sector in Sri Lanka, the tourism industry has earned Sri Lanka $1.775 billion in the first ten months of 2014, an increase of 30.4 percent compared to same period of 2013. According to statistics from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), most of the island's visitors were from Western Europe with 479,007 tourists visiting in 2014 recording a 13.8 percent rise over corresponding 2013 figures. Arrivals from South Asia, the other region from where most of the tourists come, increased by 13.4 percent totaling a 370,299 tourists, while arrivals from India increased 16.3 percent to 242,734 in 2014. The SLTDA figures also showed a 10.7 percent rise in tourist arrivals from North America with 72,653 visitors last year, a 22.6 percent rise in arrivals from Eastern Europe with 154,153 tourists, a 53.2 percent increase in East Asians with 280,511 tourist arrivals and 6.8 percent increase in Australian arrivals with 57,940 tourists visiting the island in 2014 compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of Chinese tourists that visited the country last year rose by an impressive 136.1 percent to reach 128,166 in number. In December alone, tourists arrivals from China increased by 120.4 percent with 10,400 Chinese tourists visiting the island. The island also saw a 10.5 percent increase in tourist arrivals from the Middle East compared to 2013, bringing in 88,991 visitors. Tourism is one of the main foreign exchange earners for Sri Lanka's $76 billion economy. The garment and tea industries and remittances from expatriate workers account for most of the rest. Sri Lanka with many of its white sandy beaches, luxuriant greenery, amazing wildlife and wealthy heritage offers a brilliant value for money and a rich diversity of natural and cultural attractions. The Forbes magazine recently included Sri Lanka among its '10 Coolest Places To Visit In 2015' list. It said now that the country is at peace, Sri Lanka offers tremendous value but is still often overlooked. Focusing on the island's wildlife, the report says: "Elusive leopards, wild elephants, boar, sloth bears and dazzling bird life from peacocks to hornbills roam this surprisingly diverse island. We can't think of another country that has the variety of experiences that Sri Lanka does. Yala National Park has been the longtime go-to, but he's excited about the reopened Wilpattu National Park, which had been closed for years due to the civil war, and where, he says, many guests are able to enjoy their safari in private."

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:Feb 4, 2015
Words:702
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