Giving a fillip to the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, the United States has lifted the travel restrictions on its citizens.
The U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday that it was lifting its travel advisory on Sri Lanka, citing the peaceful atmosphere that has taken hold a year after the war against LTTE ended.
“The Travel Warning issued for Sri Lanka on November 19, 2009 has been cancelled, effective May 26, 2010,” the State Department said in an announcement. “Department of State has cancelled the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka due to improvements in safety and security conditions throughout the country.”
According to the island nation's Tourism Promotion Bureau, tourism picked up in a big way within months of the war ending.
As per statistics, tourist arrivals rose 47 per cent to 38,300 in April 2010 from a year earlier with strong growth in Western European and South Asian tourists.
The State Department's announcement on easing of travel restrictions coincided with the four-day Washington visit of Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris.
Mr. Peiris is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday.
On Wednesday, he met President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser James Jones and other senior U.S. Department of Defence officials.
Welcoming the announcement, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the U.S. Jaliya Wickramasuriya said: “We have been working with the State Department for some time to lift this warning, and I am heartened that it has occurred during Minister Peiris' Washington visit.”
In its statement, the State Department noted that, “The Government of Sri Lanka declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 18, 2009. Since the war's declared end, the LTTE has not mounted any attacks in Colombo or elsewhere in Sri Lanka.”
Tourism is an important component of Sri Lanka's economy, and tourism officials expect it to continue to expand dramatically.
The New York Times in January listed Sri Lanka as the number one destination to visit in 2010, citing the war's conclusion and Sri Lanka's historical sites, lush forest and broad beaches.