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U.S. travellers give Sri Lanka holidays a boost

It looks like U.S. travellers will be free to enjoy Sri Lanka holidays as the country authorities lifted travel warnings and restrictions. The island is now in its best ever tourism momentum after the civil war days have been finally left behind.

U.S. travellers give Sri Lanka holidays a boost

The rapidly rebounding industry of Sri Lanka holidays and the country's tourism sector have recently received a further boost after the U.S. officially lifted its travel warning to the island a year after the end of the nation's bloody civil war.

According to a U.S. State Department statement they have “cancelled the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka due to improvements in safety and security conditions throughout the country”. - said Head of the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau, Dileep Mudadeniya expressing his joy over the recent announcement.

"This is something we have been looking forward to. It will have a knock-on effect on (travel) insurance rates and also encourage more business travel from the West.” - he continued.

The Indian Ocean island has just passed its first anniversary of the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels in a violent military offensive that ended the guerrillas’ separatist campaign after 37 years of conflict. An estimated 100,000 lives were claimed in the war, according to United Nations.

Even when tourists and those enjoying Sri Lanka holidays for pleasure were never directly targeted during the height of the troubles between troops and Tamil Tigers the violence seriously tarnished the island’s image.

And now the Sri Lanka holidays sector is staging a dramatic revival. Tourism arrivals have risen for 11 consecutive months and were up 50% in March, compared to the same period last year.

While Indian tourists took the top slot with 8,607 visiting Sri Lanka, tourists arriving to Sri Lanka holidays from the United Kingdom totalled 8,559 and visitors from Germany amounted to 5,305. With the increase in operations of the low-cost carrier, Air Asia, arrivals from Malaysia also enjoyed a healthy increase.

Dilip Mudadeniya, Director General Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, predicts that this healthy trend will continue in the future too. “This positive sentiment is due to peace and the removal of travel advisories and we expect this healthy trend to continue,” he said.

However, according to Ajit Gunawardene, chief executive of John Keells, Sri Lanka’s largest hotel group, if the tourism economy continues to grow at such rates there will be an occupancy shortage within two years. Sri Lanka holidays' tourist infrastructure can handle up to 800,000 visitors a year, comfortably meeting expected demand this year of 500,000.

But within the next two years, arrivals are expected to double and then double again two years later to 2 million. He suggests that unless the country embarks on a hotel construction boom it will fail to meet demand. The industry is hoping to attract 2.5 million visitors by 2016, up from 450,000 in 2009. It is also hoping to earn US$2 billion annually in tourist revenue by 2016, up from US$350 million last year.

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