Sri Lanka targets 2.5 million tourists in 2017

COLOMBO, (Xinhua) — Sri Lanka said on Monday that it has set a target of 2.5 million tourists in 2017 as the island nation was becoming a popular tourist destination.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga told Xinhua that the country had already exceeded the 2 million tourist arrival mark in 2016 and now it hoped to attract a further 2.5 million tourists by the end of 2017.

Up to November, the government had achieved a little more than 1.8 million tourists with the leading markets being India and China.

China will continue to be a very strong market even in 2017 as more Chinese tourists were expected to arrive in the island country, the minister said.

He further said that the closure of the Bandaranaike International Airport for certain hours from January to April would have an effect on the number of tourist arrivals this year.

“This is worrying and I have taken the matter up with the authorities concerned. However we will do our best to achieve the targets set and ensure that tourism becomes the leading foreign exchange earner,” Amaratunga said.

The country’s main international airport will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day from Jan. 6 to April. 6 due to maintenance work on the runway. Several flights have had to re-schedule their arrivals and departures to Colombo as a result of the maintenance.

Passengers travelling during this period have also been advised to arrive at the airport five hours prior to their flight departure.

Meanwhile Amaratunga said the government had planned mega publicity campaigns to be launched in several cities across the world this year, which would promote Sri Lanka as an ideal tourist destination.