Sri Lanka, Asia's authentic and compact island, provides a diverse array of natural and other attractions — has been listed among the five new emerging travel destinations by the World Travel Market's industry report, following a dramatic turn-around of its tourism industry. There is no doubt that pent-up demand for the destination, which has been inaccessible for many years, is driving growth. Almost everyone talks about Sri Lanka tourism being the engine of growth, and expects it to play a pivotal role in the island's economy.
A very high per centage of foreign tourists choose Sri Lanka as a holiday destination to enjoy the "sun and coconut-fringed beaches" and other attractions, such as its colourful culture and excursion trips to the very green misty hill country area that harks back to its colonial heritage. Visitors are instantly embraced by the warmth of the country and swept away by its serenity. There are many tourists who return to the island's warm shores to find rest and relaxation, as they are pampered by hospitable locals. Time comes to a standstill as you absorb yourself in the country's history, seaside, wildlife or trek through the green plains in the up country region.
As one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world, Sri Lanka has all the attributes to become one of the world's finest tourist destinations, with its stunning beauty, natural resources, absolute peace, political stability, climatic changes within a few hours of driving past beautiful waterfalls, scenery, rivers, tea estates, UNESCO approved world heritage sites and over 250,000 archaeological sites, along with many other attractions. It is nearly impossible to find all these attractions on a compact island, in addition to the warmth and friendly nature of the people who are still not infected by commercialisation.
Anyone who has visited this wonderful destination will not hesitate to return, and those who venture to this island are amazed by its beauty. Tourism is really booming in Sri Lanka, which is reaping the harvest of peace and stability as it aims to soon become the wonder of Asia.
Once known as "the Granary of the East" and 'Serendib' by Arab sailors who sailed through the silk trade route, Arabs today are re-visiting Sri Lanka as tourists and also to engage in trade and business.
Sri Lanka expects 2.3 million tourist arrivals per year by 2016. Judging by the influx of tourists today, there is no reason to expect why this target cannot be reached, as things are moving fast in the right direction. Sri Lanka has become one of the top tourist destinations, which are served with daily flights by most major airlines. With state-of-the-art hotels and friendly people, meeting the target of 2.3 million and also becoming the 'Wonder of Asia' within a few years using tourism as a vehicle, is definitely a reality.
Also, a newly introduced online visa procedure has encouraged and enhanced visitors, as immigration officers are alert and professional, friendly and quick.
New highways and expressways have been developed and Sri Lanka's first access-controlled 96-kilometre expressway from Colombo to Galle, built at a cost of approximately US$700 million, opened in November 2011. This has made the city of Galle more accessible for both local residents and tourists, with the travel time between Colombo and Galle reduced to two-and-a-half hours from five hours, resulting in hotels and resorts located on the Southwest Coast of the country witnessing an improvement in their performance due to the opening of the expressway. The remaining stretch of highway linking Matara is expected to be completed this year.
The construction of the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway connecting the international airport in Katunayake to Colombo city is in progress and to be completed