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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 15:04 GMT
FCO downgrades Sri Lanka advice
A Sri Lankan family camp out in the ruins of their home in Galle
Tourism was growing in Sri Lanka and will be vital to recovery
The UK Foreign Office is no longer advising against all but essential travel to tsunami-hit Sri Lankan areas.

In the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami, it had warned Britons against visiting the eastern and southern coasts, and the south-western coast.

The Sri Lankan authorities have been looking forward to the downgrading of the travel advice so they can begin attracting back British tourists.

Tourism is vital to the economy as a generator of foreign currency.

The Foreign Office noted that a number of hotels and resorts on the southern and south-western coasts have now reopened.

Tourist boom

But it warns anyone planning to travel to these areas that they should check with their tour operators and hotel to check they are operating normally.

Most hotels in the eastern towns of Trincomalee, Nilaveli and Arugam Bay have yet to reopen, officials said.

The Foreign Office's longstanding advice against all but essential travel to the north-east of the country, due to post-war issues such as uncleared mines, remains in place.

Sri Lanka - which has more than 30,000 confirmed dead - had enjoyed a tourist boom since the signing of a ceasefire with Tamil rebels in the north of the country in 2002.

The Association of British Travel Agents had tipped Sri Lanka for big increases in the number of British tourists visiting in 2005.

As well as its popular beaches, tourists were also visiting cultural sites inland.

The government in Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of reopening hotels since the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

Officials say tourist revenue is needed for reconstruction efforts across the whole of the country.

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