Sri Lanka vows safe haven for tourists

Colombo, Feb 24 (IANS) The Sri Lankan government on Wednesday said it will take immediate measures to provide a safe environment for tourists to the island nation.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the government was concerned at the increasing number of complaints of exploitation and harassment of foreign tourists and warned to take stern action against those involved, Xinhua reported.

Amaratunga called on the police department to revamp the Tourist Police to suit the current needs.

“There is an increasing trend of complaints of harassment and exploitation of tourists, especially in the western and southern coastal belts and in the Cultural Triangle sites. The complaints range from monetary exploitation such as overcharging, short changing and theft to harassment by touts, salesmen, taxi drivers and even tour guides,” Amaratunga said.

“The emerging trend is causing concern. With tourist arrivals hitting record figures, the number of complaints is also increasing. We plan to take stern measures so that the good name of the industry and the country is not spoilt by a few miscreants,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which was once heavily scarred by a 30-year civil conflict, has now emerged as the leading foreign exchange earner with an increasing number of tourists.

In January, arrivals rose 24.3 percent year-on-year to 194,280, boosted mainly by a massive influx of Chinese tourists.

China appears set to be the single largest tourist source for Sri Lanka, overtaking India, statistics from the Sri Lanka Tourism Board revealed.

Last year, Sri Lanka received almost 1.8 million tourists, up 17.8 percent from the previous year, largely due to a strong growth of Chinese visitors.

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