Colombo, Feb 10 (IANS) The Sri Lankan government is planning to sign bilateral agreements with a number of countries including China, Pakistan and Iraq, aimed at increasing tourist arrivals and to boost the crisis-hit sector, a top official said.
The Cabinet has granted approval to sign the bilateral agreements with China, Pakistan, Estonia and Iraq to promote tourism, while the government expects to enter into agreements with several other countries such as South Africa and Georgia, reports the Daily Financial Times newspaper.
However, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said the signing of the agreement could be delayed for some time due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China which has caused problems for the global travel industry.
“Escalation of the coronavirus crisis could pose a negative impact on the tourism industry. But we are optimistic of signing these agreements as soon as the tourism industry in the world recovers,” he told the Daily Financial Times on Sunday.
The Minister pointed out that such agreements would benefit Sri Lanka as well as other countries in the event disasters hit the world.
Sri Lanka has already signed agreements for tourism promotion with 10 countries – India, Thailand, Seychelles, Poland, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Australia, Russia, South Korea and the Philippines.
Accordingly, the implementation of the programmes will be coordinated through a Joint Working Group.
Sri Lanka’s top tourist markets include India, the UK, China, Australia, Germany, the US, Maldives, France and Canada.
He said the Government also intended to appoint destination marketing agencies based in India, Europe, China, the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine.
In 2019, Sri Lanka received a little over 1.9 million tourists. This year, the new government has aimed to attract 3 million tourists, increasing it to 10 million within five years.