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Indian tourists accounted for around 20 per cent of total foreign tourist inflows into the island nation Sri Lanka last year.
Located strategically to India's south, the Indian Ocean nation is betting big on Indian visitors and hopes to double the arrivals in the next 2-3 years. Indians travelling to the country stood at 274,000 in 2014 from a total of around 1.5 million tourists arrivals from across the world during the year, said the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Board.
"We have fixed a target to achieve 2.5 million foreign tourist arrivals in next two years. Of this, India would be the largest contributor. Wedding tourism, luxury travel, business and meetings, beach sports and adventure tourism are witnessing good interest from the Indian travelers.Till May this year, tourist arrivals from India numbered 130,000," said Indrajith De Silva, director of Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Board. With the second half being the driving period for tourist arrivals, it was expecting around 400,000 Indian tourists this year, he added.
Among the destinations on top of Indians are locations such as Colombo, Matala, Galle, Hambantota, Kandy, Trincomalee, Anuradhapura, Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) and Mannar. According to Silva, increased tourist interest in wedding celebrations and adventure segment was helping them augment infrastructure along the beach side venues and develop the existing one's in the central provinces surrounding the country's capital city Colombo.
He said the country was increasingly engaging with travel agencies in south India to promote its tourism destinations, and was in talks with private airlines in India to increase the frequency of flights from the major metros. "Unlike the countries in Southeast Asia, in Sri Lanka, it is possible to travel from south-north (covering 750 km distance) within a single day. Moreover, the country is totally peaceful now," Silva said.
At the ongoing three-day Travel and Tourism Fair (TTF) 2015 here, tour operators said Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines remained the top destinations to visit for Indians in the last year. However, they said, Maldives and Sri Lanka were seeing good enquiries this year.
During the visit of Sri Lankan President to India this year, both countries had agreed to share knowledge and work towards developing Buddhist circuits in the respective nations.
The annual fair is being held in eight locations in the country this year. Over 150 stalls from eight countries and 18 Indian states and Union territories are taking part in the edition here.