Sri Lanka eyes Indian tourists to breathe life into failing economy
Colombo, July 7 (EFE).- Sri Lanka will launch a campaign in key Indian cities to woo visitors from the neighboring country, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said on Wednesday, as the cash-strapped island nation struggles to revive its failing economy.
Fernando stated that as a temporary fix to the financial crisis, the Sri Lankan tourism agency will organize a series of roadshows in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, and Bangalore to draw Indian visitors.
The objective is to entice visitors to the Indian Ocean island for vacations and weddings. The island is well-known for its gorgeous beaches, vast tea plantations, and several Unesco heritage sites.
Tourism remains one of the main sources of foreign exchange that once added $4 billion annually to the Sri Lankan economy.
However, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) reported that Covid-19 caused the revenue to fall to $507 million last year.
The sector has suffered a double whammy as the country is now in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades.
The island has run out of foreign currency for essential imports like fuel and medicines.
However, recent tourism-related news has been mostly positive.
“The tourist arrivals in June rose by 8.8 percent (from May). This is the off-season, and the arrivals will increase further,” the minister said.
India leads all foreign visitors to Sri Lanka each year, followed by Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The United Kingdom government has reinstated its advice against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka due to the severe economic crisis that sparked violent demonstrations.
“Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe economic crisis which has led to shortages of basic necessities including medicines, cooking gas, fuel and food,” the British government advisory warned.
The island nation is struggling with a major shortage of fuel affecting transport and businesses.
Last month, the government announced that the remaining fuel stocks will be released only for essential services until July 10.
Fernando said the government had put in place a program to ensure tourism businesses got sufficient fuel through a coupon system.
“Next week, we are planning to put forward a proposal for cabinet approval to deploy mobile fuel bowsers for tourism purposes,” he said. EFE