A big boost for high-end tourism in Sri Lanka was promised in bullish statements by tourism minister John Amaratunga ahead of the inaugural Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC) in Colombo.

As reported on the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) website, he said that the tourism sector could grow by an average annual rate of 15 to 20 per cent over the next four to five years. “By 2020 it is predicted to be the island’s top foreign exchange earner.”

He reportedly added that “our aim is high-end tourism”, and that “tourism development zones on state-owned land would be opened up for ownership and lease; infrastructure projects like new expressways and regional airports are planned, and he said the island’s integrity would be preserved by avoiding over-development”.

PATA: “Mr Amaratunga said Sri Lanka wants to generate up to five million tourists by 2020 and increase tourism revenue to 10 billion dollars. That includes doubling the current number of rooms available and creating direct employment for 300,000.

“Challenges to achieving these goals are communications based. We need to get the message out to the world that Sri Lanka is no longer at war and is one of the safest destinations on the planet…hospitality is ingrained in Sri Lanka’s genes”.

Read the full report here.

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