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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 15:25 GMT
Sri Lankan tourism booms under truce
Traditional Sri Lankan devil dancers at the annual Kelaniya Temple pageant
Sri Lanka hopes for record numbers of tourists in 2003
Sri Lanka's tourism industry is booming as the country's peace process continues.

Government forces and Tamil Tiger separatists signed a truce in February 2002 and talks between the two sides are continuing to end a 19-year-long civil war.

As a result the number of tourists visiting the country in 2002 was up 16.7% compared with 2001, Paddy Withana, chairman of the Sir Lankan Tourism Board, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

And Sri Lanka is hoping to attract record numbers of tourists in 2003.

With the help of aggressive marketing Mr Withana said arrivals might reach half a million compared with the previous record of 436,000 in 1999.

Positive

Sri Lanka's biggest hotel chain, Jetwing, is hoping to cash in on the rising popularity and has opened a new luxury hotel.

Indira Hettiraachi, marketing manager for Jetwing, said tourists were seeing real benefits from the truce.

"We have a lot of repeat guests who are coming - they see the difference here in Sri Lanka now," she said.

Checkpoints that had been in place all over the country for the past 20 years have now gone.

The truce has also opened up roads to most parts of the country and boosted domestic tourism.

Ms Hettiraachi said her company was very positive about the future for the Sri Lankan tourist industry.

Ambitions

"The government is also changing their concept for the first time," she said.

"As a destination we will be spending and marketing in the major markets like the UK, Germany and France and also Italy."

Mr Withana said he expected arrivals from India, Japan and China to increase in 2003.

Arrivals from India saw the biggest jump in 2002, he said, doubling to 70,000.

And the Chinese government approved Sri Lanka as a tourist destination for its residents in November 2002.

Sri Lanka's tourism industry was badly damaged after Tamil Tiger separatists attacked the country's only international airport, in Colombo, in July 2001.

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  Indira Hettiraachi, Jetwing hotel chain
"We are very positive for the future"

Peace efforts

Background

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See also:

06 Jan 03 | South Asia
13 Nov 02 | Business
26 Sep 02 | Business
13 Sep 02 | Business
11 Sep 02 | Business
08 Mar 02 | South Asia
15 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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