By Aanya Wipulasena
Colombo, Aug 19 (EFE).- Tourism in Sri Lanka has yet to recover fully from three consecutive blows inflicted by the 2019 Easter bombs, two pandemic years, and the island’s worst economic crisis in decades this year.
After more than 20 years of civil war, which ended in 2009, the island of idyllic landscapes and white sand beaches was on pace to boost tourism.
The sector grew to become one of the largest foreign-exchange earners in the country.
According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, tourism remained the third greatest source of foreign money in the five years beginning in 2014, accounting for 14 percent of the total, behind only remittances sent by the diaspora and the textile industry.
In 2018, the island received a record 2.3 million visitors.
A year later, however, three churches and three luxury hotels were bombed, killing 269 people, including 40 foreigners.
More than 400 people were injured in the attacks by Islamist militant in April of that year when the Christian minority was celebrating Easter Sunday.
Tourist arrivals declined to 1.9 million that year.
As the downturn became steeper, the country closed its borders due to the pandemic, reducing visitor arrivals to 500,000 in 2020 and 200,000 the following year.
When everything appeared to be returning to normal, the island was hit by the greatest economic meltdown in decades, which snowballed into a social and political crisis.
Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told EFE that he expected 1 million tourists by the end of 2022 and 1.5 million the following year.
According to SLTDA data, approximately 500,000 visitors arrived in Sri Lanka by July 31.
The majority of the visitors came from the United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, and Canada.
Ella, 32, is one of them from the United Kingdom who chose Sri Lanka as her honeymoon destination despite the advice of family and friends.
The British government had likewise advised against visiting the island except under extreme circumstances.
“It has been a beautiful experience so far,” she told EFE.
She said they faced no problems and chose Sri Lanka for their honeymoon “because we love its nature and local cuisine.”
The newlyweds still have a week on the island and are hoping that everything goes as planned.
She expressed regret that the news of mayhem and unrest that floods worldwide TV channels discourages tourism.