Sept 06, Colombo: Sri Lanka has launched a new five-year plan under the guidance of the Economic Development Minister to boost tourism in the country as the country is focusing on development two years after eradicating decades-long terrorism that stalled the progress .
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa launched the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Strategy for 2011-2016 on Monday outlining plans to attract 2.5 million tourists to the country in the next five years and increased the foreign exchange earnings to $ 2.75 billion by 2016.
Since the end of the war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists in May 2009, the country has seen increasing tourist arrivals every year for the past two years.
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose nearly 30 percent to 72,463 visitors in August this year when compared to a year ago.
Last year 650,000 arrived in Sri Lanka but this year over 500,000 tourists visited during the first eight months alone,
“We have set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists by 2016,” Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.
Under the new Tourism Development Strategy, the Economic Development Ministry with the private sector has launched a programme to double the hotel room capacity to 45,000 by 2016 over the current 22,745 to accommodate 2.5 million arrivals by that time, the government said.
Among other ambitious goals are plans to increase foreign exchange earnings from US$ 501 million in 2010 to US$ 2.75 billion in 2016 and attract US$ 3 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) within the next five years,
The government also plans to increase leisure related employment to 500,000 by 2016 from a current 125,000.
The government says to fast track the construction of hotel rooms, it hopes to set up a one- stop- shop at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority for tourism related investment projects with the cooperation of the Board of Investment, Urban Development Authority, the Coast Conservation Department and other line agencies which will drastically slash the transit times in obtaining approvals for investment.
The government has planned to open Foreign Direct Investments to develop golf courses, water parks, marinas, entertainment studios, light aircraft services and sea planes, convention and exhibition centers, gaming cities in special zones, race courses, theme parks, shopping malls, adventure sports, boat manufacturing and boat hiring and taxi services.
The Tourism Authority is also collaborating with Sri Lanka Railways to promote train travel by modernizing the tracks and carriages and also make the rail tracks closer to the main tourist attractions.
The country has already established a sea plane service to expedite travel for the tourists to country’s main attractions.