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Thu 30 Jul 2009 04:03 PM

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Mideast tourists to Sri Lanka surge by 85%

Tourism officials say Saudi and UAE leading travel resurgence to country following end of civil war.

Mideast tourists to Sri Lanka surge by 85%
TRAVEL BOOST: Hikkaduwa beach, some 160km south of Colombo, in Sri Lanka. (Getty Images)

Holidaymakers to Sri Lanka from the Middle East have surged 85 percent following the end of the civil war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, which ended in May after 25 years.

Figures from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s (SLTPB) Middle East office show that travellers from Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the travel resurgence from the region.

Qatar, Oman, Lebanon and Egypt also contributed significantly to the overall growth in tourist numbers, said SLTPB’s Middle East director, Heba Al Ghais Al Mansoori.

“The month of June has seen exceptional growth with travelers from Saudi Arabia and UAE leading the resurgence to post extraordinary growth during the month of June with Saudi travelers up by 186% and UAE travelers up by 181% compared to the same month last year,” she said.

“We are confident that this growth will be sustained and we hope to better our numbers during the Eid break and year-end through sustained promotional efforts and strengthening support for the travel trade in the region as we see an increased awareness both among the travel trade and the consumers for Sri Lanka as a preferred destination.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans displaced by war are still confined to military-run camps.

According to report by Associated Press news agency the United States has expressed its concern over the humanitarian crisis in the country and has pledged $8m towards a resettlement programme for some 280,000 people living in camps.

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