Visits to Sri Lanka down sharply after hotel, church attacks

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka rapidly declined in June, showing the severe economic impact of the Easter bombings on the Indian Ocean island nation.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said Wednesday there were 63,072 tourist visits to Sri Lanka last month, a drop of 57% compared with June 2018, when the number was 146,828.

The highest numbers were from India, followed by Australia, the United Kingdom and China. Almost 97% of tourists arrived by air.

Arrivals for the first six months of the year were 1,008,449, a decline of 13.4 % compared with 2018, when 1,164,647 visitors arrived.

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Seven suicide bombers struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and three luxury hotels on April 21. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group known as National Thowheed Jammath.

The blasts killed more than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and the U.K.

Tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign currency earner last year, after remittances and textile and garment exports.

Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited, generating $4.4 billion, a nearly 12% jump from 2017. Around half a million Sri Lankans directly depend on tourism while 2 million depend on it indirectly.

The government expected an income of $5 billion from tourism this year, but after the blast, it said revenue would decline to $3.7 billion.

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