Sri Lanka eyes Indian travellers for quick tourism revival

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Sri Lanka plans to tap Indian tourists to revive the South Asian island’s battered tourism sector and shore up its depleted foreign exchange reserves.

Authorities will hold roadshows starting next month in five Indian cities to attract travellers seeking “wellness, leisure, and Ramayana-trail,” tours, corporate functions and destination weddings, said Harin Fernando, the South Asian island’s tourism minister. Ramayana is the mythological life story of the Hindu god Ram.

“We believe that Indian tourists will be very important for us in the short term,” he said. The worst economic meltdown since independence, coupled with political turmoil, has hurt the nation’s tourism sector, that’s been a key driver of foreign currency inflows.

Sri Lanka’s forex pile has dwindled to a meagre $1.89 billion in May even as it needs nearly $6 billion in the next few months to tackle shortages and support its currency.

The South Asian nation is banking heavily on multilateral institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, and friendly countries, for aid to tide over the crisis. Neighbouring India, so far, has extended $3.5 billion of support in the last few months.

Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi have been picked for the roadshows, Fernando said, adding that the bankrupt nation hopes to attract about 1 million tourists in 2022. Sri Lanka welcomed a peak of around 2.5 million tourists in 2018 before the Easter Sunday terror attacks dried up arrivals.

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