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Tourism: Sri Lanka is back in business
Aabhas Sharma | December 01, 2005
If Udaya Nanayakkara is brimming with enthusiasm, it's because statistics suggest the chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Board has been able to pull off one of the most amazing turnarounds in the history of global tourism.
After a tsunami had devastated parts of Sri Lanka, the tourism industry looked set to take a financial beating. But with $10 million in its marketing and promotional kitty, it has not only matched but exceeded the year-on-year tourist arrivals to the island.
Between January-September '05, there were over 400,000 visitors to Sri Lanka, 8 per cent more than the same period the previous year. Of this, 82,000 were from India.
Says Nanayakkara, "A recovery plan included infrastructure development and construction programme and investment in community development." Promotions in India and familiarisation tours for its industry partners were organised.
In its peak tourist season (November-March), the industry seems to have overcome the after-effects of the tsunami. Of the 248 star class hotels there, 48 had been badly damaged, 31 of which are again operational. New hotels are coming up, including a 245-room Hyatt in Colombo and a Taj in Kandy (the chain's fourth property in Sri Lanka).
Simultaneously, there is a significant increase in the number of air seats on the European leg to Sri Lanka. Austrian Airlines has introduced two weekly flights on the Vienna-Colombo route, and next month Dutch carrier Martinair will launch three weekly flights from Brussels to Colombo.
Damage control in India became one of the tourism board's priorities, with Indian tourists ranked at second-highest on the island, with an average stay of 4.6 days and spends at $74.
For now, there are 88 weekly flights from India to Sri Lanka, and Air Deccan is expected to enter into a joint venture with Air Lanka to start services between the two countries some time soon. The Sri Lanka Tourism Board has also tied up with Kerala and Goa for the marketing of joint holiday packages.Special promotions are now underway to increase traffic from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Says Nanayakkara, "We are confident that Sri Lanka will again become the hot spot for tourists."