Sharp drop in tourist arrivals

[TamilNet, Sunday, 11 July 2004, 10:52 GMT]
The outbreak of the dengue epidemic in Sri Lanka has resulted in a sharp drop in tourist arrivals this week, The Sunday Leader quoted government officials as saying.

But according to statistics released by the Tourism Ministry, there has in any case been a great reduction in the number of tourist arrivals in the country compared to the first six months of last year, the paper said.

Panic-stricken tourists have cancelled their travel plans to Sri Lanka because of the raging dengue epidemic and also an explosion last Wednesday at a Colombo police station attributed to a suicide bomber, the paper said.

Senior Manager, Marketing and Travel, Ceylon Hotels Corporation (CHC), Ranjit Balasuriya told The Sunday Leader that if the government fails to take adequate steps to remedy the issue fast it would end up in a disaster.

"Although the main reason for tourist arrivals to drop in the country is the current dengue epidemic, the suicide explosion which took place on Wednesday also has a slight effect on the tourist arrivals in the country. However, it is to soon to say how badly this would affect the tourism industry, as this was an explosion aimed at certain parties rather than the public," Balasuriya said.

He also said that his office is inundated with telephone calls from a large number of tourists finding out about the situation in the country and also finding out if it is advisable to travel to Sri Lanka.

He said that locals who frequently travel to hotels islandwide have decided not to go because of the dengue threat.

"The drop in tourists coming to Sri Lanka and locals' aversion to visit hotels due to the threat of dengue is expected to adversely affect the country's overall economy. It is high time that the government takes this into serious consideration," Balasuriya said.

Officials said that this year in the month of January the total number of tourist arrivals was 49,950 with a 22.9% increase from January last year, in February there were a total of 43,584 with an increase of 11.5%, March there was 38,418 with a decrease of 11.9%, April there was 30,672 with a decrease 9.0% and May there was 30,162 with an increase of 0.4% only. The total number of tourists up to this year is 192,786 - a decrease of 4.6% from the first six months of last year.

Meanwhile, the Indian Express newspaper reported that the Sri Lankan tourism industry hopes to woo more Indians to the country with what they prefer most - adventure tours and vegetarian food and sapphires.

"More than 90,000 Indians visited Sri Lanka last year and we hope to increase that number with adventure tours, sapphires and vegetarian food, the three most popular things that Indians want from here," Amith Sumanapala of Walkers Tours, one of the largest Destination Management companies in Sri Lanka, told the paper.

Sri Lanka is a chosen centre to hold business conferences, as it is cheaper than India to organise the same in Colombo, Jet Airways Director (Sri Lanka) Bihan Dedigama said.

 

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