"There was no major impact on tourism. Infact it (political crisis) impacted Tamil Nadu and India more as the wholesale business in textiles, dry fruits and other commodities was affected,'' said Bhaswara Senaka Gunarathna, chairman of Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority said. "When all the protests were happening in India there was a significant protest in Colombo too led by Tamil businessmen. They have Indian passports and they wanted the crisis to end,'' Don S Jayaweera, director general in finance and planning ministry added.
Political tensions between India and Sri Lanka heightened in March with Indian government voting against Sri Lanka in United Human Rights Council. Sri Lankan Airlines had cut down its flights to Chennai and the government issued advisory to its citizens against travelling to Tamil Nadu. Sri Lankan government officials claim that these problems have had very little impact on tourist traffic to their country.
India is the largest tourism source market for Sri Lanka accounting for nearly 20 percent of all foreign arrivals. In 2012, over 1.7 lakh Indians travelled to Sri Lanka and the tourism development authority is increasing its promotion efforts in India. Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai are the biggest markets for Sri Lankan tourism within India.
"We have seen 10 percent growth in arrivals from India between January-March. We expect 200,000 tourists from India this year and by 2016 we expect the figure to go upto 400,000,'' Gunarathna said. Sri Lanka Tourism, launched a five year strategic development plan for the sector, from 2011-2016, based on the development policy framework and it includes serving the needs of all stakeholders and ensuring the economic benefits of the industry expanded within a larger cross section of the society.
"We have product to cater to each and every budget. We are targetting backpackers and high end tourists equally,'' Gunarathna added.