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Surge in tourism in Lanka, Indians retain top slot

[PTI, Friday, 6 January 2012 12:27 No Comment]

(PTI) There was a surge in the number of foreign visitors to Sri Lanka, with Indians being the largest group of holiday makers last year amid efforts by the government to boost the sector following the end of a three- decade ethnic conflict in 2009.

The number of Indians visiting Sri Lanka last year jumped 35.1 per cent to 171,374 in 2011 compared to 126,882 in 2010, the Tourism Development Authority said today.

Overall, the number of tourists visiting Sri lanka increased to 855,000 from 654,000 in the previous year, official figures showed.

There was a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists. They accounted for a modest 16,308, but their increase over 2010 was a staggering 56.4 per cent showing the growing Chinese interest in the country.

The number of Pakistan tourists recorded an even bigger increase with 14,724 arriving in 2011, up 61 per cent from the 9,148 arrivals in 2010.

Officials were concerned that the new online-visa system which replaced the visa on arrival from the start of this year may affect the tourist traffic from South Asian nations as well as European markets.

Nationals from SAARC countries must pay USD 10 as visa processing fee while others must pay USD 20 with the exception of Singaporeans and Maldivians who have been exempted from the system on a reciprocal basis.

According to earlier reports, Sri Lanka has laid out plans to transform its tourism sector into a leading driver of economic growth, with the government aiming to woo FDI to the tune of USD 3 billion over the next five years, after decades of ethnic conflict the industry hard hit.

According to the ”tourism development strategy 2011-2016”, Sri Lanka is aiming to raise its tourism earnings by USD 2.25 billion by the year 2016 by increasing tourist arrivals by almost 2 million.

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