With more Chinese tourists flowing in,
Sri Lanka looks forward to a strong tourism bounce-back as it ends a four-month
long state of emergency that followed the Easter Sunday terrorist bombings and
opens more airports to international traffic.
Tourist arrivals from China have already propped up a slow
recovery, according to industry insiders. As China and other countries have
relaxed their travel advisories, more tourists are expected during Sri Lanka's
peak tourism season before and around the end of the year.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday announced
the end of the state of emergency. It began after the suicide blasts set by
Islamists at three Christian churches and three luxury hotels on April 21. More
than 250 people were killed. Police said more than 100 people are in custody
over the attacks to date.
Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs
Minister John Amaratunga on Saturday told Xinhua that ending the state of
emergency sends a clear message to the world that Sri Lanka is safe for travel.
As the hardest hit sector of the island nation since April,
tourism is witnessing a steady increase of tourist arrivals from China,
according to Ms Randima Udunuwarage, Junior Manager of the Sri Lanka Tourism
"Out of the 1,008,449 tourists that arrived in the country
by June, 97,560 were Chinese," she said. Therefore, the agency "has
launched special programs in June and July to attract more Chinese
Vice-President of Sri Lanka Airport and Aviation Services
Priyantha Kariyapperuma said all international flights from and to Sri Lanka
are operating as usual.
He confirmed that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
in Sri Lanka has issued a gazette notification allowing three more airports to
accept international flights. Airports in Ratmalana, Palaly and Batticaloa join
existing international airports in Katunayake and Mattala.
Unlike Westerners who are seasonal travelers, Chinese tourists
travel in all seasons and as Sri Lanka is a tropical country with no seasonal
impact, "it is important to attract more Chinese tourists," he said.
Dr Amila Kankanamge, consultant of South Asia Travel Awards,
recalled a local phrase - spending like a "sudda" (foreigner), which
is usually referred to spendthrifts who spend like wealthy Western tourists.
Kankanamge said that the time has dawned to rephrase this to "spending
like a Chinese" as more global wealth is circulating among the Chinese
Government figures show that tourism accounts for 4.9 percent of
Sri Lanka's GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism
and two million indirectly.