Sri Lanka expects over 26 per cent growth in Indian tourists

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Kolkata, July 6 (IANS) Sri Lanka is expecting a growth of over 26 per cent in tourism footfall from India and aims for about 450,000 travellers from the country this year, its officials said here on Thursday.

In its maiden roadshow here, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) stressed on wedding tourism, the Ramayana trail and film tourism as top promotional picks for the island nation.

“We are promoting Sri Lanka as a wedding tourism spot, for Ramayana trail and have identified film tourism as well. We are looking at 450,000 Indian tourists for 2017. We expect a growth of over 26 per cent in the footfall this year,” SLTPB Assistant Director/Marketing, India, Viranga Bandara said here.

He said India has become the top source market for Sri Lanka, while China is number two, in terms of arrivals.

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SLTPB is investing in digital marketing campaign to lure Indians to experience the country’s seductive beaches, water sports, mountains among other spots.

Last year saw 356,729 Indian tourists visit Sri Lanka compared to 316,247 in 2015.

“In 2016, Sri Lanka saw a growth of 12.8 per cent in Indian arrivals over the previous year,” said Bandara.

As for film tourism, he said they are working on a single window clearance system.

“We are looking at more Indian films to be shot in our country. We will be facilitating logistical arrangements and approvals. We are working on a single window clearance and our process of approvals is without any delay,” he said.

According to SriLankan Airlines area manager, Kolkata, Lalith Peiris, the carrier operates more than 100 flights a week from India.

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“We are having daytime operations here because we want people from eastern region to come to Kolkata and take the direct flight to Sri Lanka for passenger convenience. We want to put more flights in the future. We are growing in India. We are the largest Asian carrier coming into India,” he said.

The carrier is also launching its operations from Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Vishakhapatnam.

“With this addition, the airlines will provide direct connectivity from 14 Indian cities with over 100 flights including Kolkata,” Peiris said.

Highlighting how the country has come on the radar as a popular Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE), leisure holiday and honeymoon destination, he said: “Our USP is we are a family destination. It’s safe to travel.”

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