Sri Lanka tourism booming with arrivals up 32 percent in July

Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:44pm EDT
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By Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals gained 32.3 percent in July from a year earlier to the highest level since December's record tally, as the island nation kept attracting more visitors and tourism-related investment since the end of a 25-year civil war.

Arrivals have risen every month on a year-on-year basis since the war's end in May 2009, and the government is targeting annual revenue of $2.5 billion by 2016 from visitors coming to see Sri Lanka's beaches, hills and religious and historic sites.

The government in July said it is expecting at least $1.5 billion in foreign investment into a proposed "tourist city" replete with hotels, shopping and a convention center in Katana, a coastal town located 15 km north of the commercial capital, Colombo.

Sri Lanka has forecast a 20 percent growth in arrivals this year to more than 780,000 people, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has facilitated $1.2 billion in tourism investment so far in 2011.

Visitors in July were 83,786, against 63,330 in July 2010, and the highest since the record 84,627 received in December.

Arrivals in the first seven months of 2011 have jumped 36.1 percent to 465,324, compared to the same period a year ago.

The 654,476 arrivals in 2010 smashed the previous all-time high 566,202 from 2004, when a peace accord was in place. Last's year's tally was 46.1 percent higher than the year before.

Tourism revenue rose 50.9 percent in first half of this year to $370.1 million compared to the corresponding period last year after jumping 64.8 percent year-on-year to a record $575.9 million in 2010, the central bank's latest data showed.

(Editing by Bryson Hull)