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Sri Lanka Registers Rise in Tourists from Middle East

Preeti Kannan / 12 December 2008

DUBAI - Sri Lanka is witnessing an encouraging increase in tourism from the UAE and the Middle East, according to a top Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official on Thursday.

There is a marked difference even as the battle against the terrorist outfit the — Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — is going through a ‘decisive stage’.

Dr Palitha T.B Kohona, secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said India and Sri Lanka ‘will work together’ to combat terrorism.

“The Middle East is one area from which the tourism intake has seen a rise. There was a an appreciable increase from the Middle East alone last year,” Dr Kohona said

“They seem to have replaced the tourists from Europe and the US. Our traditional sources of tourism may have been affected by the travel warnings but the non-traditional sources have begun to replace them,” said Dr Kohona, who made a brief stopover in Dubai before travelling to Hague for a meeting.

Speaking of the ongoing conflict that has killed thousands of Sri Lankans, Dr Kohona said: “The battle has reached a decisive stage that the LTTE has now asked every student, grown up and old people to undergo military training. ”

The official said that there had been no political pressure from New Delhi, despite the Indian state of Tamil Nadu’s repeated demands for a ceasefire in the island nation.

Delhi has not put any political pressure. On the contrary, Delhi has supported military initiatives against the LTTE. Both our countries are committed to eliminating terrorism. Both our countries have suffered incredibly from terrorism and we will work together to ensure this scourge does not continue to affect us,” said the senior official.

Dr Kohona said thousands of war refugees in India are contemplating on a return to their homes and the government was taking steps to issue passports and other travel documents.

In an attempt to discourage the migration of unskilled Sri Lankan women, the government is facilitating training in sectors like hospitality and healthcare.  — preeti@khaleejtimes.com

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