Sri Lanka aggressively woos Indian tourists

Himalayan News Service

Colombo, April 10:

As Sri Lanka targets to receive a million tourists, it’s aggressively wooing Indians. Visitors from India have become the largest arrivals in this enchanting island after Britons, even soaring past the Germans. Sri Lanka is slowly but surely moving away from its over-dependence on the European market. And Indians are proving to be good spenders too.

Like his Western counterparts, the Indian tourist - mostly from the middle class and upper middle class - spends up to 10 nights in Sri Lanka and about 75 dollars a day. This is highly appreciated by the tourism industry.

“Indians are becoming an important tourist market for us,” Sri Lanka Tourism director general S Kalaiselvam said. “Many come on packages. But unlike the Western tourist, most Indians come with families. “Most of them visit historical and archaeological sites, besides the beaches,” the officer added. “And they love to shop!” Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka crossed the half a million mark for the first time last year, thanks mainly to the Norwegian-brokered truce between the government and Tamil Tiger guerrillas that has given the country its longest spell of peace since February 2002.

Simultaneously, the government has also taken steps to generate more funds for the tourism industry so as to unleash an aggressive global campaign selling Sri Lanka as an attractive and value-for-money destination. Thanks also to the peace, Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches along the east coast — otherwise part of the war theatre — have been opened up for tourists.

Britons, Indians and Germans now account for 50 per cent of the tourist arrivals, closely followed by visitors from France, Italy, Japan, Australia and the Scandinavian countries. The tourist target for this year is 600,000 and by 2010 - if the peace continues — Colombo hopes to play host to one million tourists. A tropical island of remarkable variety, Sri Lanka’s topography varies from the coastal plains with palm fringed sandy beaches to the cool central hills.