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Now, US tries to undermine Lanka tourism revival plan

The Sri Lankan government yesterday said that a US State Department travel advisory aimed at discouraging US citizens from visiting Sri Lanka was part of US strategy to undermine the country.

A senior Foreign Ministry official told The Island that nothing could be as bad as the US warning of potential for continued instability and possible terrorist attacks a month after the end of war. He said that the government had requested the international community to remove travel advisories as the LTTE no longer posed a threat. Responding to our queries, he said though the armed forces maintained road blocks and carried out routine checks on vehicles entering the city and its suburbs, there was no likelihood of LTTE attacks.

He said that the US had also interfered with Sri Lanka’s bid to secure a USD 1.9 billion IMF facility.

The US State Department last Friday warned American citizens travelling to or living in Sri Lanka about the potential for continued instability, including possible terrorist attacks.

Another official pointed out that the US issued its latest warning close on the heels of Sri Lanka Tourism launching its new brand identity ‘Sri Lanka Small Miracle’ to promote tourism. Recently, Ambassador Ravinath Ariyasinghe urged the western countries to remove travel advisories as peace and stability had been restored in all parts of the country.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa last Thursday (June 25) said the government hoped to receive 2.5 million tourists in 2016 and 2011 would be declared ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year.’

Addressing a gathering of tourism and hospitality industry personalities via satellite at the official launch of ‘Sri Lanka Small Miracle’, he said that the tourism industry had suffered a setback during the last 30 years due the war but the armed forces had now cleared the way for the industry to make a comeback.

He said though tourism was confined to the South and a few other areas, the defeat of the LTTE would open up the north and east, too, for tourists.

He assured maximum possible support to revive the industry.

Paying a glowing tribute to the armed forces, Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda said that the only way they could show people’s gratitude to the armed forces was to strengthen the country’s economy.

Deputy Tourism Minister Faizer Musthapha said that there was absolutely no justification in continuing with travel advisories.

"We are in touch with all foreign missions, apprising them of the situation," he said adding that the travel advisories could be lifted soon.

The Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Dilip Mudadeniya outlining the whole exercise said, "The objective of the Sri Lanka Tourism re-branding was to create a single core idea that can change the people’s perception of the country. The challenge faced by SLT during the brand strategy planning session in 2006 was to find an idea revealed the truth about the country and communicate it through every material item produced, thus establishing an integrated communication approach."

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