Chennai: Despite the Easter Sunday bombing dampening the tourism spirit of Sri Lanka, the island country is bouncing back and it is banking on the Indian tourists, particularly those from the south to rev up the tourism activity, says John Amaratunga, Sri Lanka tourism, wildlife and Christian religious affairs minister.
The minister on a visit to the metro on Wednesday said the island nation has introduced free visa regime post the tragic incident and he vouchsafed that Sri Lanka is a safe tourist destination in the subcontinent. “Our police and intelligence agency say Sri Lank is now safest place to visit. All those responsible for the bombing have been arrested and are facing charges,” he said.
“Today, the political relationship between Sri Lankan government and the Indian government is very high and very cordial, understanding each other’s problems and helping each other,” he said and lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's gesture in visiting the affected area in early June. “This (visit) gave a signal to the world that Sri Lanka is now safe. There is absolutely no problem and anyone can visit Lanka. It was a very fine gesture on the part of the Prime Minister,” Mr. John added.
On his first foreign trip to Sri Lanka after getting re-elected Mr. Modi paid homage to those killed at the St Anthony's Church Easter Sunday attack (on April 21, 2019).
Speaking to reporters here Mr John Amaratunga said the bombing had caused a temporary setback resulting in cancellations of bookings and disruption of the tourism industry. “As we depend heavily on tourism, we faced tremendous loss of foreign exchange. But now tourism industry is reviving. The message that I want to give now is: Sri Lanka is absolutely safe to travel,” he said. The number of international tourists arriving to Sri Lanka is increasing now and may touch three million mark by this year-end.
Last calendar year, Lanka received three million tourists and the total revenue was about $4 million. The number of international tourists in 2019 is expected to be around three million.