Sri Lanka tourist arrivals up 15.7-pct in January

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka increased 15.7 percent to
85,874 in January 2012 from a year earlier, maintaining growth but at a slower
pace than last year, official data showed.

In January last year arrivals grew a steep 64 percent and
year with annual growth clocking at 30 percent as the end of a 30-year war
generated a tourism boom.

Western Europe continued to dominate with arrivals growing
11.9 percent to 36,497 though UK arrivals fell 14.2 percent to 8,162.

UK tourism has been hit by economic troubles and a British
tourist was also murdered in December in Sri Lanka and his girlfriend and
colleague allegedly raped by a gang led by a ruling politician in the South of
the island.

But German arrivals rose 7.0 percent to 5,933 visitors from
the Netherlands were up 22.4 percent to 3,590, from Italy up 31 percent to
2,107 and from Sweden up 25 percent to 2,876.

Arrivals from Eastern Europe rose 22 percent to 6,838 with
Russian visitors up 43 percent to 2,790. Middle Eastern visitors were up 70
percent to 3,950.

East Asian arrivals rose 28 percent to 9,334 with Chinese
tourists rising 21.5 percent to 1,952. Visitors from Japan rose 30 percent to
1,866 and Singaporean arrivals rose 41 percent to 1,453.

South Asian arrivals grew only 7.3 percent with Sri Lanka
key generating market India, growth only 6.0 percent to 14.615. Indian currency has weakened over the last few months and visa free status for Indian also ended from December.

Sri Lanka now has an electronic travel authorization
process, which however is likely to make it easier for visitors from many
countries where visas were previously issued manually to enter the country.

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