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Minister calls to end State of Emergency

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga yesterday expressed hope that the State of Emergency, which was imposed after the Easter Sunday terror attacks, will be lifted next week.

“Sri Lanka is now regarded as a safe destination. Security forces have repeatedly certified that the country is now safe for travel. I believe by next week or so, the Emergency will be terminated,” Amaratunga told journalists.

He pointed out that the only unfortunate aspect now for the tourism industry is the State of Emergency, which is still continuing. “At the moment because of the Emergency, there are restrictions on the insurance for all tourists that are travelling to Sri Lanka,” he added.

However, the Minister noted the State of Emergency has been extended due to the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks still being carried out.

Amaratunga assured that after the State of Emergency is lifted, there will be an increase in the arrival of large groups to Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, the Minister stressed that tourist arrivals are picking up with a daily average of about 5,000 at present.

“There should be no hesitation of the final numbers. By the end of the year we would surpass two million tourist arrivals, despite the disruptions the country has faced,” Amaratunga said confidently.

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes said as tourist arrivals gather momentum, they will hit the two million target for this year. “Last year in August we had 217,000 tourists visiting the country. This month, without this conference, our estimate is 155,000. With the convention, we are expecting 175,000 tourists. Month to date average was around 4,700 in August, but the numbers are increasing.”

Gomes said that year-to-date July tourist arrivals exceeded 1.1 million, and by the end of this month, they expect the aggregate tourist arrivals to be around 1.3 million.

He also expressed confidence that they will be able to surpass tourist arrival figures of 149,000 in September, and 153,000 in October set last year.

With four months left for the year to end, Gomes said the average tourist arrival Sri Lanka requires is 175,000 per month to be able to hit the two million target.

(FT)

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