Sri Lanka is living it up to its `hot destination` tag as Middle East travelers increasingly choose this short-haul destination…
Sri Lanka is living it up to its `hot destination` tag as Middle East travelers increasingly choose this short-haul destination as a key place to visit during 2004. The latest inbound tourist figures show more than a 40 per cent increase in travel from the region has been sustained during 2004.
Sri Lankan Tourist Board`s tourist arrivals data for the third quarter showed a sharp rise over the Summer travel period from the Middle East, (Jan to October 2003: 5790 visitors compared to 8,111 in 2004). Regional travel agents also noted major popularity of Sri Lanka as a destination during last week`s Eid Al Fitr travel period.
SLTB Director General, Mr. S Kalaiselvam, said he was delighted with the increased interest. Sri Lanka is less than a five hour flight from much of the Middle East, with an increasing number of direct flights providing even more reason for people to travel, he said.
Emirates Holidays West Asia Pacific Rim Manager, Mr Jyrki Nilson added: Travellers from the Middle East are increasingly looking for new destinations and Sri Lanka provides a great mix of luxury hotels, natural wonders, pristine beaches and a welcoming sightseeing adventure for families and all leisure travellers.
Arab travellers love to visit such places as the Cultural Triangle including Kandy to see the many historic sites as well as the famed elephant orphanage. Buying famous Ceylon gemstones such as sapphires is also high on the list of souvenirs of Sri Lanka for the Arab traveller.
Mr Kalaiselvam said Sri Lanka had strong Arab links. Early Arab traders established trading ports in Sri Lanka and named the country Serendib, the land of happy surprises. These Arabic links remain strong today. Mosques are widely present as is halal food and many home-away-from-home comforts. Commercial trade in gems and tea and other key trade products remain strong between the Middle East and Sri Lanka.
Middle East airlines have responded to the growing interest in traveling to Sri Lanka by extending services to Colombo. Besides Emirates, which offers 25 scheduled flights per week from Dubai to Colombo, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Air Arabia have all recently launched direct flights to the Sri Lankan capital.
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