Business / Industries

Sri Lanka aims to expand air links with China to attract more tourists

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-12-18 17:29

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka is targeting more Chinese airlines to arrive in the island nation as the government looks to further expand its tourism industry next year, Senior Advisor to the Tourism Minister, Felix Srimal Rodrigo said.

"Sri Lanka is an island which means tourists can only reach here by air transport. Establishing strong air links will boost our tourism industry," Rodrigo told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Presently the government is negotiating with the Chinese government to expand air links between the two countries, said Rodrigo.

Sri Lanka's national airline carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines is operating three weekly flights between the two countries.

"However we should have more Chinese airlines coming here. China is a big place. We want at least four to five more Chinese airlines," Rodrigo noted.

Tourism had become the number one foreign exchange earner in Sri Lanka as the Chinese currency, Renminbi, had become the most used foreign currency, said Rodrigo.

"The export of Sri Lanka's traditional products such as Ceylon Tea and Coconut is going down. Now we rely on tourism," Rodrigo said.

The island nation's tourism industry has seen an upward trend since the end of the civil war in May 2009. This year Sri Lanka has been able to attract 200,000 Chinese tourists with the government maintaining that cooperation between China and Sri Lanka had recently witnessed "a very big development."

"In 2016, we want to double the number of tourists. In the coming three years, Sri Lanka is going to depend on tourism," Rodrigo said adding that Sri Lanka's target of 2 million tourists for this year has almost been achieved as 1.9 million tourists have already visited the country.

The Sri Lanka government hopes to attract at least 3 million tourists next year and it has set a target of 4 million by 2020.

According to latest data, China has become the leading market for tourists to Sri Lanka, said Rodrigo, adding that several advertizing campaigns are to be launched next year in China to attract more tourists.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to visit China next year to conduct a massive travel promotion on behalf of his government which was sworn to power in January.

The Sri Lankan government is presently implementing a more open policy to attract Chinese travelers and has implemented an open visa policy where all transit passengers and short term travelers can obtain an ETA visa with only $30.

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