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Country needs minimum 35,000 rooms to
meet 2.5 million target – Tourism Secy.

Tourism Ministry Secretary, George Michael, on Tuesday said that Rs. 700 million has been allocated for the new international marketing campaigns of which about Rs 14 million would be spent on campaigns planned in western countries.

"If we are to achieve a target of 2.5 million tourists by the year 2016, the country needs to have at least 35,000 rooms as against the present 14,000", he said.

Addressing a news conference on the forthcoming tourism week, he said projects have been initiated to achieve these goals and with the completion of the proposed integrated projects in Kalpitiya and Passekudah, the industry would be able to meet the bulk of the requirement.

Greater emphasis has been laid on the accelerated development in the East coast, a much sought after destination for tourists in the pre-war period, like Passekudah, Nilaveli, Trincomalee and Arugam Bay showing a very high occupancy rate, he said.

The number of rooms available in Colombo City hotels which is around 3,000 at the moment, would have to be increased by at least another 1000, he said.

The Colombo City Hoteliers Association has agreed on minimum rates proposed by the Tourism Ministry which would be gazetted soon, he said.

These rates would become applicable towards the latter part of the year, Michael noted.

The good news was that a number of investors have already visited the island and are in the process of negotiating with the relevant authorities, while some of the projects have got underway, Michael said.

Questioned as to why the Passekudah Resort Development has been unduly delayed, he said it had been due to the preparation of the conceptual design and it would soon get underway.

Responding to a query whether Vakarai in the east coast had been already earmarked for tourism development, he said "There were plans, but still suitable land had to be found."

Michael said it was encouraging that the World Bank had provided US$ 20 million for tourism development and an agreement would be signed soon.

These funds would be utilised for the enhancement of the standards of tourism administration at Provincial and Pradeshya Sabha level, he said.

JAICA had also provided a US$ 30 million loan for infrastructure development of tourism sector in the east he said.

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