Tourism in Sri Lanka
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Tourism in Sri Lanka is growing rapidly. For centuries, Sri Lanka has been a popular place of attraction for foreign travelers. The famous Chinese traveler Fa-Hien arrived in Sri Lanka in the late 4th century. In the twelfth century, Italian explorer Marco Polo claimed that Sri Lanka to be the best island of its size in the world. In view of its fascinating scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage, Sri Lanka has been held among the foreign travelers continues up to the present as a one of best tourist destinations in the world.
In 2012, post office worldwide holiday costs barometer named Sri Lanka as the best valued destination for holidays and also in 2013 the popular travel guide book Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as the best travel destination for 2013. According to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015 Sri Lanka is at 63 out of 141 countries.
- 1 Tourism planning & development
- 2 Tourist arrivals
- 3 Domestic tourism
- 4 Attractions
- 5 Accommodations
- 6 Earnings
- 7 Social and environmental impacts
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Tourism planning & development
The government initiatives in development of tourism date back to 1937 when the Ceylon Tourist Bureau was established. But it was closed down in September 1939 as the impact of World War II. After the Independence the promotion of tourism was again considered by re-establishing the Ceylon Tourist Board which took over the function of the Tourist Bureau. More formal recognition for country's tourism sector was given with the enactment of Act No.10 of 1966. Which provided the legislation for the establishment of Ceylon Tourist Board. Since then the Ceylon Tourist Board functioned as the state agency, responsible for development and promotion of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka.
In October 2007 according to the Section 2 of the Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (Act No 10 of 1966) was replaced by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).
Currently Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has classified Sri Lanka into several resort regions suitable for tourism development.
- Colombo and Greater Colombo Resort Region: The Colombo and Greater Colombo Resort Region spreads along the Mount Lavinia in south to Negambo in the north. Colombo city is the main part of the zone and it is the center for business activities, conferences and sport events in the country. Colombo also serve as both a gateway and stopover point for international tourist.
- South Coast Resort Region: The south coast zone extends from Wadduwa to Tissamaharama. The zone has been divided in to two main region. The first region extends from Wadduwa to Galle. Coastal areas like Kalutara, Beruwala, Bentota, Dedduwa, Madu Ganga, Balapitiya, Ahungalla, and Hikkaduwa are included for this region. The second region, extending from Galle to Tissamaharama includes Unawatuna, Koggala, Weligama, Mirissa, Matara, Tangalle and Hambantota areas as sub points of the zone.
- East Coast Resort Region: The East Coast Resort Region extends from Kuchchaveli in the north to Pottuvil in the south. The main tourism zones in this region are Arugam Bay, Pasikudah, Trincomalee and Nilaveli.
- West Coast Resort Region: The West Coast Resort Region extends along Kalpitiya, Marawila and Waikkala areas.
- High Country Resort Region: Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela and Maskeliya are included for High Country Resort Region.
- Ancient Cities Resort Region: This region has five world heritage sites, namely Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Kandy, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. Other regions include Habarana, Giritale, Matale and Victoria.
When the government decided to develop the tourism sector as a separate sector of country's economy by establishing the Ceylon Tourist Bureau in 1966, there were 18,969 foreign tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka. Since then there was a upward trend of tourist arrivals until 1982, with a exception of 1971. Between 1976 and 1982, the tourist arrivals had increased 24% per year. The tourist traffic in 1982 showed that there was a remarkable growth in number of tourists with 407,230 arrivals. However with the beginning of the civil war in 1983, the growth of the tourist arrival was declined and stagnated to around 300,000 - 500,000 arrivals annually.
The Civil War that had longed over 25 years was ended in 2009 as LTTE separatist were defeated by the government forces. In 2009 the tourist arrivals accounted for 448,000 and in 2015, it was 1,798,380, showing over 300 percent growth in six years.
There is a significant domestic tourist segment and excursions in Sri Lanka. In 2014 six million Sri Lankans had traveled within the country as domestic tourists. The main purposes of travel by the domestic tourists are pilgrimage, family holiday, study works, and sight seeing. The main destinations of domestic tourists are Anuradhapura, Kataragama, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Sri Pada, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla. Domestic tourism is noticeable during school vacations and on weekends.
The tourism attractions are classifiable into natural and anthropogenic. Natural attractions include places of nature spots, flora and fauna, and places with a pleasant climate. Geotourism sites may also be included for this category. Anthropogenic attractions include archaeological and cultural attractions, historical and religion sites, performing arts and folklore, handicrafts and artefacts.
Despite its small size, Sri Lanka possess high level of biodiversity and wildlife resources and it is rated among the 34 Biodiversity hotspots in the world. From flora to fauna, a lot of species are indigenous to Sri Lanka. That has made the island as a country with highest rates of biological endemism in the world.
In Sri Lanka 13% of its land surface has been designated as Wildlife Protected Areas (WLPAs) which at present exceeds a total area of 8500 km2. Approximately 7% of the area are comprised with National Parks, the areas allowed for the public to see and study wildlife. Hence that Sri Lanka's National Parks have been become popular tourist destinations in the country.
Sri Lanka possess nearly 1600 km coastlines with popular tropical beaches among both local and foreign tourists. Most of the coastlines of the country are studded with varying coastal features such as bays, lagoons, sandbanks, and rocky headlands. Marine recreation activities, such as sea bathing and swimming, surfing, boating, snorkelling, deep-sea fishing, underwater photography, and scuba diving, can be seen at most of these beaches and related resort areas. Beaches at Tangalle, Beruwala, Mirissa, Bentota, Unawatuna Arugam Bay, Pasikudah, Uppuveli and Negombo are considered as famous tourist beaches in the country.
Natural Scenic Beauty
Sri Lanka has numerous tourist attractions with areas of natural scenic beauty, primarily including beautiful mountainous terrains, agricultural landscapes, waterfalls, places with diverse climatic conditions, reservoirs (Wewas), rivers and various other places.
The country has six botanical gardens and four Zoological gardens. The botanical gardens are maintained by the Department of National Botanical Gardens. and the zoological gardens are maintained by the Department of National Zoological Gardens. The gardens have become attractive places among local and foreign visitors.
Heritage tourism involves visiting historical sites. Sri Lanka is very rich in pre-historic, proto-historic, and historic monuments, which bespeak its ancient civilization and culture. Mainly Buddhism has influenced in moulding cultural heritage of the country. The historic period of Sri Lanka proper starts at circa 236 B.C. with the introduction of Buddhism to the country by the missionaries sent by the Indian empire Asoka.
The UNESCO has declared six archaeological and two ecological World Heritage Sites in the country. Beside the world heritage sites the government of Sri Lanka has declared number of archaeological protected sites and monuments with in the country.
Sri Lanka is well known for its rich Buddhist culture as well as other religions. Being a religious country, Sri Lanka has many places with religious and historic significance, which attracts tourists from all over the world. Anuradhapura, Temple of the Tooth, Sri Pada, Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu and Kataragama, are few of famous religious sites in the island that attract a large number of tourists.
The foot Pilgrimage called Pada Yatra, which is one of the Sri Lanka's oldest traditions, has been practiced for centuries, where the local people from Jaffna come along the East Coast to Kataragama shrine.
Sports and Adventure
Sports tourism is defined as either people been involved, observing or participating in a particular sporting event for leisure. Sri Lanka is also a destination for some of sports such as cricket, rugby, golf and surfing. Except for the cricket, the contribution to the tourism sector from other sports are still in very low level. Apart from mainstream sports events, adventure sports are also included as a part of the sports tourism. Trekking, hiking, diving, rock climbing, deep sea fishing, whale watching and hot air ballooning are some of the adventure sports those can be found in Sri Lanka.
Culture and other
Museums and Theatres - Currently four national museums and 26 archaeological museums have been established in Sri Lanka. National museums are maintained by the Department of National Museums and archaeological museums by the Archaeological department. Beside the museums a large number of theatres also can be found in Sri Lanka.
Festivals - Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural country with several different festivals celebrated by various communities. Sinhala and Tamil New Year Celebrations, Vesak Festival, Christmas, Ramadan festival, Thai Pongal , Galle Literary Festival are few of major festivals celebrating in Sri Lanka.
Performing arts - There are three main traditional dance forms in Sri Lanka: Kandyan Dancing, Low Country Dancing, and Sabaragamuwa Dancing. Though not unique to Sri Lanka 'Bharatanatyam' which originated from India is also popular in Sri Lanka particularly among the Tamil community.
Food - The cuisine of Sri Lanka has been influenced by many historical, cultural, and other factors. Rice is the main staple diet of the country. Other staples include hoppers, string hoppers, pittu etc.
Being one of the largest producers of tea in the world Sri Lanka is best known for the production of unorthodox tea. Tea was introduced to the country by the British who called the country “Ceylon”. Pure “Ceylon Tea” is considered some of the finest tea produced anywhere in the world.
Handicrafts - Different types of handicrafts are available in Sri Lanka; including Wood carving, Silverware, Brass castings, Ceramic ware, Bamboo products, Pottery, Batiks, Lace works, Cane works, Costume jewelry, Lacquerware, Wooden masks, Coir goods, Handlooms, Ivory products.
Tourist accommodation in Sri Lanka consist of graded hotels, supplementary establishments, guest houses and limited scale camping sites. More informal accommodation is available on a paying guest system in private houses and hill-country tea estate bungalows.
The tourist industry is making a significant contribution to the national economy by directly contributing to the government budget, foreign-exchange earnings and employment generation. It generates both direct and indirect, in the provision of goods and services to the tourist sector.
Social and environmental impacts
Tourism in Sri Lanka, despite its benefits for the local economy (it is one of the main foreign income sources of the country), is undergoing several critics. Thus, some studies indicate that a quick modern tourism development would not cater to the specific needs of the local people. Also, the high biodiversity of Sri Lanka seems to be threatened by the development of mass tourism which has already affected several natural reserves. Some endangered animal species seem to be seriously threatened by the rise of tourism in some areas: that is the case of the Keerthisinghe’s Rock Frog, which is endemic in Sri Lanka.
An alternative kind of tourism - called Ecotourism, sustainable tourism or responsible tourism - enables travelers to do tourism throughout Sri Lanka while contributing on the well-being of the local communities and making sure the environmental impact is limited. The Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation is the national organization that created an official ecotourism network through the island, allowing to develop sustainable tourism with wide options of travel. In 2010, the foundation won the presidential awards for "Outstanding Contribution for Tourism in Sri Lanka".
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Sri Lanka.|
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