Sri Lanka eyes vast Chinese market

SRI LANKA is aggressively trying to attract more travellers from China, the world’s largest outbound travel market, and plans to work with neighbouring Maldives to achieve this.

“We need to capitalise on the Chinese market, which we have not been doing enough in the past,” said Nalaka Godahewa, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism (SLT).

Attracting Chinese travellers was part of the recent discussion between Sri Lanka’s Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, who handles the country’s tourism portfolio, and Maldives Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, Dr Mariyam Zulfa.

Zulfa was in Colombo on March 24 to 26 to attend a high-level meeting organized by the UN World Tourism Organization.

According to Godahewa, Maldives has succeeded in attracting Chinese tourists when there was a drop in European traffic.

In 2010, China topped tourist arrivals to the Maldives, the first time that any Asian country has done so. According to the latest figures released by Maldivian authorities, 104,148 Chinese visited the Maldives by the end of October 2010 versus 49,655 for the same period in 2009. Whole-year figures for 2010 were not immediately available.

Even with little promotion by Sri Lanka, the number of Chinese tourists has increased sharply. According to SLT, in the period January to March 2011, saw 4,709, compared to 2,510 in the same three-month period in 2010, an 87.6 per cent increase.

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