Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka exceed half million

Colombo, July 18 (IANS) Aided by a healthy 13 percent improvement in June, tourist arrivals to post-war Sri Lanka in the first half of this year have crossed the half a million mark, latest data showed Thursday.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), arrivals between January and June amounted to 512,281, up by 13.1 percent over the first half of last year, reports Xinhua.

In June, tourist arrivals rose by 12.8 percent to 73,628, though month-on-month performance was lower as against the 22 percent in May this year over the corresponding month of last year.

Sri Lanka is targeting 1.25 million tourist arrivals this year, up from one million in 2012.

Earnings from tourism are projected to hit $1.5 billion, up from $1 billion last year. Up to April, earnings amounted to $407.3 million, up by 19.8 percent over the first four months of last year.

By the end of June, India continued its reign as Sri Lanka's biggest tourist market with 83,981 tourists, followed by the traditional markets of Britain and Germany with 55,286 and 36,700 visitors respectively.

Sri Lanka is planning to capture the Chinese market within the next few years and has targeted 60,000 Chinese tourists for 2013.

The largest arrivals from a single country during the month also came from India, which recorded an arrival base of 13,856 in June, a 0.7 percent increase from a year earlier.

Regionally, South Asia recorded the largest number of arrivals at 21,915 last month with a 9.6 percent growth over the same month of the previous year.

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