PASSIKUDHA, Sri Lanka, July 12 (Xinhua)-- The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), an international travel and tourism body, opened the 2016 conference on Tuesday in Passikudha, eastern coast of Sri Lanka under the theme of "Tourism: a Catalyst for Development, Peace and Reconciliation."
Hundreds of guests including Mr. Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Mr. John Amaratunga, the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, a number of tourism experts and more than 60 international delegates attended this high profile conference.
This is the first time for international level conference being held in the Eastern Province, which was engulfed in the throes of civil war for nearly 30 years.
According to Amaratunga, the conference, due to take place from July 12-14 at Amaya Beach Resort, Passikudah, will open a new chapter in the renaissance of the tourism industry in the east coast of Sri Lanka.
The main objective of the conference is to identify and discuss the close links between tourism, peace and reconciliation as inter-dependent components in their overall political, economic and social-cultural dimensions; the contribution of tourism development to this process and the opportunities and challenges faced both by the public and private sectors; and tourism development in areas that were inaccessible to tourists due to the conflict.
Speaking at the ceremony, Amaratunga expressed confidence the conference will point out the way forward in making tourism a catalyst in developing the country while also playing an important role in establishing peace and reconciliation.
The latest figures of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka for 2015 reached near 1.8 million visitors, an increase of 17.8 percent over the previous year. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has targeted 2.5 million arrivals for 2016.