Airport work cuts Sri Lankan tourism for first time since civil war

COLOMBO: Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka fell in February for the first time since a nearly three-decade-long civil war ended in May 2009, government data released on Friday showed.

It snapped a 93-month streak of tourist increases on the island, popular for its Indian Ocean beaches and varied wildlife. Tourism accounts for close to 5 percent of Sri Lanka's economy.

Arrivals in February edged down 0.4 percent to 197,517, the first fall since May 2009.

The slight decline, analysts said, was due to inconvenience and long waiting time at the main airport, which is currently closed for eight hours a day for runaway renovations.

It is due to open again fully in early April, but the airport renovations have caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled since January 6.

Tourist arrivals and revenue from tourism hit record highs in 2016, with annual arrivals jumping 14 percent to a record 2.05 million.

Revenue in 2016 hit $3.4 billion, beating the previous record of $2.98 billion posted in 2015, central bank data showed.