Tourism will be essential to help Sri Lanka rebuild itself after the recent tsunami, according to Peter Hill, CEO of the national carrier SriLankan Airlines.
ÊHill explained that approximately 80 per cent of the hotels affected by the disaster were operational once more, and that most of the island was unaffected.
He said: “Tourism remains the lifeblood of Sri Lanka, and the area affected is only one small part of the island. Places such as Kandy and the mountain region rely on visitors to sustain their economies and to see a slump in visitor figures would be another blow for the country.”
He continued: “Sri Lanka remains a multi-destination country. While some of the beaches have been affected, we also have the hill country, the tea country, the wildlife parks, and the World heritage sites - all of which are easily accessible from the capital, Colombo.”
The country is making a quicker recovery than expected, though experts have stressed that a medium to long-term plan is essential.
Hill explained: “The region’s travel industry has been affected before, but has shown remarkable resilience thanks to the strength of our product. Experts tell us that we can expect a full recovery within 2005.”
International hotel chains present in Sri Lanka have pledged continued investment in the island.
Thomas Monahan, Starwood Hotels & Resorts senior vice-president for acquisitions and development, said the group had been looking to establish one or more of its brands in Sri Lanka for the past two years. Starwood remains bullish on Sri Lanka and would even consider investment opportunities should the right opportunity present itself, he said.
The luxury brand, Banyan Tree manages two properties - Deer Park Hotel, located in Giritale and the Swanee Hotel in Beruwala. The company’s chairman, Ho Kwong Ping said his company is well-placed to help the affected communities build back their lives. “We now have a responsibility - one to help those who strive to regain normalcy.”