Colombo, Feb 9 (NIA) – Chinese tourists visiting Sri Lanka, is expected to rise to 1 million per year, in another 5 to 10 years, China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang said here on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Chinese Cultural Fair held in Colombo, organised by the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka with the support of the Urban Development Authority, Yi said that last year 270,000 Chinese tourists had visited the island country.
With the close relations shared between China and Sri Lanka and the number of tourists rising per year, he said he was confident that the Chinese tourist arrival mark would reach 1 million annually in a few years.
“Today we encourage more Chinese tourists to come here as this is a friendly country for China. So I am sure within 5 to 10 years, there will be one million tourists who will visit Sri Lanka each year. So our relations will be strengthened greatly,” Yi said.
“Last year more than 270,000 Chinese tourists came to Sri Lanka. Chinese have been coming to Sri Lanka since ancient times.”
China has been the second largest market for the most number of tourists arrivals to Sri Lanka with the growth percentage seeing a rapid increase on a year on year basis.
Sri Lanka crossed the 2 million arrivals threshold for the first time in its history last year. Although projections for 2017 have largely been conservative factoring in the 3 month partial closure of the country’s main international airport during the peak tourist season, indications are that 2017 will in fact deliver the anticipated targets.
Despite the partial airport closure, the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry said that tourist arrivals were the highest recorded in January, providing the required impetus to kick start another record breaking year. Tourist arrivals grew by 13 percent reaching 219,360 visitors last month, which is an all time-record for the month of January.
The Ministry said that arrivals from the Far East driven by China had been impressive, growing by a hefty 26 percent, contributing 48,773 visitors. Out of those numbers, over 31,000 were Chinese tourists.
Several hotels in the country have put in place facilities to cater to Chinese tourists and several new Chinese restaurants, serving authentic Chinese food have also sprung up, mainly in capital Colombo to cater to the growing number of visitors.
Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, has also been chosen by 200 Chinese couples to hold a mass wedding event this year.
Several investors, including from China, have expressed enthusiasm for opportunities in Sri Lanka, citing its tremendous variety of attractions, such as ancient temples, wild elephants and unspoilt beaches, all within close range of each other.
Officials said with the tourism industry performing well, tourism was poised to become the country’s number one foreign exchange earner in the coming years.