End of Sri Lanka’s civil war brings back tourists

Author: By Andrew Buncombe

?This is mainly due to the peace situation in the country,? S Kalaiselvam,
director general at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, told
Reuters. ?We are confident of achieving at least similar to last year?s
figure and revenue. Our target is to get 2.5 million tourists and $2.5bn
(£1.5bn) revenue in 2016.?

Tourism has long been a key source of revenue for Sri Lanka, which enjoys no
fewer than seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, and plenty of idyllic beaches.
But the trade was badly hit, first by 2004?s devastating tsunami, and then
by the reignition of the decades-long civil war a little more than a year
later. Since then much of the north of the country has been off-limits to
visitors, and the capital, Colombo, has been under threat from suicide
bombings.

But the war finally ended in May this year after government troops routed the
last remnants of the once powerful Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and
killed their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and now it appears that
Westerners are beginning to return. In an effort to encourage the resurgence
in visitors, the government recently announced a major new 4,000-acre
tourist development 100 miles north of Colombo at Kalpitiya.

But the war?s consequences are far from over for civilians caught in the war
zone. Around 280,000 are being held in internment camps while they undergo
security checks and the government carries out mine-clearing operations.
Despite protestations from the government, campaigners say the conditions in
these camps are poor and that the civilians should be allowed home.

The country?s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has vowed to provide a political
settlement for the Tamil minority of the country, though he has said this
cannot happen yet. In elections earlier this month in the north of Sri
Lanka, Mr Rajapaksa?s ruling United People?s Freedom Alliance swept to
victory in Sinhalese-dominated Uva province and scraped a win in Jaffna.
Less pleasing for the government, the Tamil National Alliance ? political
allies of the defeated LTTE rebels ? won control of Vavuniya.

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