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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Peace hopes boost Sri Lankan tourism
Sri Lankan Airlines Airbus destroyed at the Bandaranaike International Airport
Tamil Tigers raided Sri Lanka's main airport in 2001
The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka more than doubled in August 2002 compared with the same month last year.

Visitors were up by 125% as hopes for peace grew in a country that has been devastated by 19 years of civil war.

% change in tourists 2001 to 2002
Jan -36%
Feb -32%
March -25.3%
April -26.7%
May -1%
June -6.9%
July +25.1%
Aug +125.7%
Source: Reuters

July also saw a 25% increase in tourists compared with 2001, following falls in visitor numbers for the first six months of the year.

A raid on Sri Lanka's only international airport by Tamil Tiger guerrillas and the global tourism slump resulting from the terrorist attacks in New York deterred people from travelling to the country in the first half of the year.

Tourism takes-off

Sri Lanka's tourism industry was devastated by the attack on Bandaranaike Airport 30km (18 miles) north of the capital, Colombo in July 2001.

Three airbuses belonging to national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, were completely destroyed and three others badly damaged at an estimated cost of $350m (224m).

Foreign tourists at the airport were badly shaken and an estimated 4,000 tourists were left stranded in Colombo.

But now the peace process is developing. The government is due to meet Tamil Tigers rebels for talks in Thailand on 16-18 September. And the tourism industry looks set to benefit.

New hotels

Private flights to the Sri Lankan city of Jaffna resumed in June 2002, four years after a plane destined for Colombo crashed on the Jaffna peninsula.

Human rights groups suspected the plane had been shot down by Tamil Tiger rebels, although the exact cause of the crash was never discovered.

Aman Resorts International, an operator of exclusive hotels is reported to be preparing to invest $20m (13m) in resorts in southern Sri Lanka having already searched for prime locations.

The company recently bought the rundown New Oriental Hotel in Galle.

Charmarie Maelge, UK director of Sri Lanka's official tourist board told the BBC's World Business Report she believes more tourists are travelling to Sri Lanka because it has been active in telling people about its peace process.

"And... the people who visit the country, they have realised how different the country is and we are getting a lot of word of mouth publicity," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Charmarie Maelge, Sri Lanka's official tourist board
"We are reaping peace dividends right now"
See also:

11 Sep 02 | Business
10 Sep 02 | Business
05 Sep 02 | Business
31 May 02 | Business
28 Mar 02 | South Asia
06 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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