COLOMBO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka will this year launch several publicity campaigns in cities across China to attract over 300,000 visitors, Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga said.
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Amaratunga said that Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for Chinese tourists as there are several Mandarin speaking tour guides and staff in all hotels and tourist sites across the country.
Amaratunga said that the Tourism Ministry of Sri Lanka is currently training a higher number of people to learn the Mandarin language as as to provide higher facilities for the tourists.
"Up to last year, China was one of our leading markets for the most number of tourist arrivals. In fact, last year we had one of the highest number of Chinese tourists to arrive in the island country," he said.
"This year, we want a higher number of Chinese tourists to come to Sri Lanka. We are prepared to give them all the facilities. We are prepared to welcome the Chinese tour guides, accompanying the tourist groups and at the same time we also have the Sri Lankan tour guides who are competent in the Chinese language."
Sri Lanka last year welcomed over 250,000 Chinese tourists but the number has seen a slight decline this year.
So far this year Sri Lanka has received over 54,000 Chinese tourists and China is the third leading market for Sri Lanka tourism.
In order to ensure that China emerges as the leading market, Amaratunga said that delegations from the tourism sector will participate in several travel fairs in China this year.
Presently, a delegation is getting set to participate in a travel fair to be held in Shanghai in April.
In addition, continuous road shows will also be held in many towns and cities in China to promote Sri Lanka tourism.
"I feel for the Chinese people Sri Lanka is the best destination as it is an advantage for them cost wise, food wise, and culture wise," said the minister.
Amaratunga said that air connectivity between China and Sri Lanka had improved since last year with 60 flights from China per month.
In addition, the government is also in talks with budget airlines to begin direct flights between the two countries.
"Over all, we hope to make tourism the largest foreign exchange earner in the country. We also hope to attract 3 million tourists to Sri Lanka this year," the minister said.