KUALA LUMPUR: Since the 30-year civil war ended between the Sri Lankan Government and the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is set to sparkle like the island republic’s moniker, ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board chairman P. M. Withana (pix) said previously, the war had been the wall which hindered Sri Lankans from moving forward to develop the country and expose its wonders to other countries.
“War puts people’s lives in misery, and distorts the country’s development. So, after it (the war) ended, the Sri Lankan people reclaimed their long lost freedom and they are not ever looking back. Freedom is so invaluable even money can’t buy.
“Now that we have got our freedom, not only the power has been brought back to the Parliament but the people can now express their opinions in a democratic way,” he told Bernama in a recent interview, in conjunction with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s official visit to Malaysia.
According to Withana, the Sri Lankan people are now more welcoming than before, hoping to attract more tourists to their US$3.5 billion (RM16 billion) tourism industry, which has been growing steadily at between 15% to 18% annually.
He said after the war ended in 2009, the number of tourist arrivals had also been growing steadily from 400,000 to two million people, to date.
Withana added that tourists could now explore every inch of Sri Lanka without having to worry about the country’s security, noting it was now one of the safest and secure countries in the region.
“We want people to come to Sri Lanka and see that we have a lot to offer, ranging from Ceylon Tea, handloom products and Sri Lankan jewelleries. Let the investors step in.
“Sri Lanka is a compact country with great weather pattern all year round.
“Freeways are coming up, hotels are also being built … lots of facilities are being refurbished,” he said, adding that Malaysia was the first country to invest in Sri Lanka after the war ended.
In a separate event, Withana told reporters the country planned to increase the number of Malaysian visitors to Sri Lanka to 50,000 next year.
“And to achieve that target, Sri Lanka Tourism currently holds tourism promotional activities in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Malaysia, which started last Tuesday,” he said.
The events include Sri Lanka Tourism Cultural Extravaganza at Berjaya Times Square, Food and Cultural Festival at InterContinental Hotel and tourism promotional campaign at Suria, KLCC here.
Withana also said Sri Lanka Airlines and the Sri Lankan Tourism Board will organise a series of marketing activities to address the main markets in Malaysia, which has brought 25,000 Malaysian visitors to the island republic this year.
He said Malaysians were spoilt for choice as Sri Lanka had 31 flights a week from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo, adding that the island republic could offer a lot of good attractions such as beaches, wildlife attractions, tea plantations, mountains and cultural diversities. — Bernama