Kochi, August 18 (The New Indian Express/newsin.asia): To attract more tourists from India, the Sri Lankan government has re-launched a Ramayana tourism circuit, which will link all temples and caves in the country associated with the Hindu epic.
The initiative was presented by Sri Lanka Tourism Minister John Amaratunga at the Sri Lanka Tourism Roadshow held in Kochi.
There was a “Ramayana Trail” earlier in the 2000s but was discontinued because it was not properly organized. Only the places linked to the Ramayana were provided to those interested in book form. Interested tourists had to work out the itinerary on their own. If it was well thought out and if it had been backed up by adequate facilities for stay and travel, it would have been a money-spinner.
But traditionally, and even now, Sri Lanka is more interested in attracting high-spending tourists from the advanced countries than from India. Indian tourists are the single largest group in Sri Lanka but they are seen as low spenders and believed to stay for shorter periods. There is also an anti-Indian feeling in the travel trade which militates against making any special provisions to attract Indian travellers.
However, in Kochi, Amartunga said tourists from India visiting Sri Lanka will be provided with free visas. Also, Sri Lanka has introduced a 50% discount on hotel packages with effect from August 1 for Indian tourists and also brought down ground handling charges in airports.
According to the Minister, Sri Lanka today, has the highest number of concessions for its guests. “Sri Lanka, for some time now, was not being considered by tourists from South India owing to internal problems. However, the situation has changed. Our country is now a safe destination,” he said.
The Minister said new policies which were being introduced were part of a larger plan to revive the tourism industry.
Since the Tamil Nadu government has also given the green signal to operate a ferry service to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu from Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan authorities will soon kick off the project.
The ferry service is expected to be launched by the end of this year after finalizing procedures with the Indian government.
Manavari temple, Ravana cave, Ashoka Vatika, Seetha Amman temple, Divurumpola, Ussangoda, Thiru Koneswaram temple, and Kathirkamam are part of the Ramayana circuit in Sri Lanka.
Felix Rodrigo, advisor to the Minister of Tourism delivered a presentation on Sri Lanka Tourism at the Roadshow while Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Assistant Director Viranga Bandara introduced the features of Sri Lanka Tourism.
The event was organized by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) along with Sri Lankan Tourism Bureau and Spice Land Holidays Group.
The Indian government had also launched the Ramayana circuit in June this year and is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme.