COLOMBO, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Over 268,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Sri Lanka last year with China emerging as the second largest market, statistics from the Tourism Ministry showed here Saturday.
In December alone, over 19,000 Chinese tourists visited Sri Lanka, including the newly-weds who in the middle of December attended a mass wedding ceremony in Colombo, hosted by Sri Lankan Tourism Ministry along with the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, to market the island country as an ideal wedding destination.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the country is hoped to attract at least 1 million tourists from China per year by 2020 and China is a strong market for Sri Lanka.
According to the statement from the Tourism Ministry, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka reached an all-time high of 2,116,407 in 2017 which represented a 3.2 percent growth compared to the previous year, with India continuing to be the top source market with 384,628 arrivals followed by China and Britain.
"The higher number of arrivals has been achieved despite serious set-backs to the tourism industry throughout 2017. The first setback was the partial closure of the country's main airport from January to April where many airlines either scaled down operation or completely halted flights to Colombo," the Ministry said.
However just weeks after the airport reopened in April, the southern half of the country experienced devastating floods that cut off access to many resort areas. Then, an unprecedented dengue epidemic centered around the capital Colombo broke out and lasted several months, the ministry said.