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Nearly 200,000 tourists visit Lanka in 2021

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has welcomed 194,495 tourists in 2021, down from around 2.3 million in 2018 before the pandemic, with 89,506 arrivals in December up from just 393 the previous year, data from the state tourism promotion office showed.

Sri Lanka welcomed 241,663 tourists in December 2019, 228,000 in January and 207,000 in February 2020 when airports were shut to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told reporters last week that they are targeting 2.5 million tourists in 2022.

Sri Lanka welcomed 507,311 tourists in 2020, who arrived before airports closed in March due to Coronavirus.

In the first four days of January 2022, a total of 11,380 tourists had arrived in the island with 2,032 Russian visitors, according to a news report quoting Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.

Sri Lanka Tourism data showed from December 1-26 a total of 69,941 tourists arrived in the country, with 19,565 holidaymakers arriving in the last five days of of the month.

The largest source markets recorded for the month of December were India, Russia,

the United Kingdom, followed by Germany and Ukraine.

Although most tourists came from Europe, there are concerns withing the industry of a setback after the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in European countries as they trigger travel restrictions.

“Even though signs of recovery were evident, the uncertainty for the travel industry is mounting again with countries already practicing restrictions and border closures with the emergence of the new Omicron variant,” a Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority report said.

“It is anticipated that, increasing cases in Europe will further dampen consumer confidence which was gradually building after the devastating Delta variant.”

A total of 56,268 Indians had visited the country in 2021 out of 194,495 tourists in 2021.

Russia generated 16,894 visitors in 2021, The UK 16,646 visitors, Germany 12,442 and Ukraine 7,037.

Chinese travelers, the second largest source market for tourists in pre-COVID times remained the lowest with only 2,417 visiting the island for the whole of 2021.

Although the concerns over the European market looms and as China remains closed for outbound travel, Sri Lanka is confident it will generate 200,000 or 100,000 tourists per month in 2022.

SLTDA chief Kimarli Fernando told a forum in December that they are expecting 100,000 tourist arrivals per month in 2022 and are hopeful of attracting Indian visitors.

The island welcomed its highest number of tourists ever in 2018 with 2.3 million arrivals that dipped to 1.9 million following the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.

However McKinsey & Company, a business consultancy, said the Sri Lanka market may take time to recover as China remains closed and the rise of COVID-19 infections in the European markets.

The consultancy predicted that Sri Lanka will return to 2019 levels by 2024 but reaching 2018 levels may take five years.



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Canadian declaration of ‘Tamil genocide’ may influence European parliaments, EU – Maj. Gen. (retd.) Gallage

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‘Counter lies, or face consequences’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says controversial Canadian House of Commons declaration that Tamil genocide took place in Sri Lanka may influence many Western parliaments as well as the EU.

The Gajaba Regiment war veteran said that the recognition of 18th May, the day Sri Lanka defeated terrorism as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day was an affront to Sri Lanka.

The ex-combat officer said that the government owed an explanation without delay. Perhaps, Sri Lanka parliament should remind Canada of deaths of hundreds of native residential school students, who had been literally snatched from their families, the retired officer said, adding that it would be interesting to see whether any political parties, civil society groups or those who issue statements against Sri Lanka at the drop of a hat would question the Canada’s gruesome past. So far unmarked graves of more than 1000 native children have been found on the grounds of such schools run till the mid-1990s, the retired Major General said.

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, son of veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree presented the motion on Wednesday (18). “Canada becomes the first national parliament in the world to recognize May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day,” tweeted, Anandasangree, the MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park.

The motion states that “this House acknowledges the Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and recognizes May 18th of each year as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”.

The House of Commons unanimously accepted the motion.

Gallage alleged that Sri Lanka lacked political will to counter the campaign against the country. Acknowledging the current political-fiscal -social crisis caused by decades of economic mismanagement, he warned that the Canadian declaration would have disastrous consequences. Would the government care to examine how interested parties could exploit the Canadian condemnation of Sri Lanka? Gallage asked.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in the third week of May 2009.

Gallage questioned the responsibility on the part of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries for Sri Lanka’s failure to meet the challenge.

Anandasangaree brought forward the motion on the 13th anniversary of the annihilation of the LTTE fighting cadre at Mullivaikkal.

Retired Maj. Gen. said that those who had failed to throw a lifeline to the LTTE as the military brought the war to a rapid conclusion worked overtime for the realization of the Canadian project.

Responding to another query, Gallage said that declaration of May 18 as Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against itself at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in early Oct. 2015 under the yahapalana regime.

Gallage recalled how Australia denied him a visa during yahapalana administration though there hadn’t been specific war crimes allegations against him. Australia also found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

Established in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Gallage said that the Parliament should respond to the Canadian House of Commons declaration on Tamil genocide. The former senior officer who was always in the thick of combat reiterated that unless tangible action was taken immediately the Canadian motion would cause irreparable damage. The Tamil Diaspora would exploit their success with Canadian political parties to pressure other countries, Gallage said, the coming Geneva sessions would be quite a challenge.

He urged the current military top brass to make representations to the government as regards the damning unfair Canadian indictment of Sri Lanka. “We should ask Canada to share with us information on the basis its Parliament reached conclusion that genocide took place here. The very basis of their declaration is questionable,” Gallage said, adding that Sri Lanka should officially inform Canada of the Indian intervention that led to the deaths of thousands, both before and after the deployment of the Indian Army (1987-1990), killing of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE female suicide cadre and the sea borne attempt to assassinate the Maldivian President in 1989. “We should set the record straight. We should use wartime British High Commission cables now in the public domain to counter lies,” the Gajaba Regiment veteran said.

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Some MPs seek hotel accommodation to attend parliament

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday that a group of MPs had requested that they be provided hotel accommodations for them to attend Parliament sittings.

Speaker Abeywardena said that the request had been made due to the prevailing fuel crisis.

The Speaker said that some MPs who travelled from outstations were unable to return home due to the fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they have requested me to book a hotel for them to stay in Colombo to attend Parliament proceedings,” he said.

The Speaker’s clarification came as reports of MPs being provided fuel at a subsidised rate were raised in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that fuel had not been given at subsidised rates to any MP.

Many government MPs also lost life possessions as their houses were looted and torched by marauding mobs early last week.

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Elder brother says MR should have known when to quit politics

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SLPP MP and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that his younger brother former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should have retired from politics after concluding his second term as President.

“Nearly 50 years of his outstanding political achievements and journey have been lost at present,” he said.

“If we become greedy for power and positions then we face such consequences as we see today,” he said.

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