Sri Lankan government is working closely with the Government of India to resume ferry services between the two countries and once operational it will help tourists from both sides to travel at a very low cost, said a senior representative of Sri Lanka’s Tourism Ministry.

“The ferry services was abandoned a few years ago, but the infrastructure still remains and on the Sri Lankan side there is also a railway line that comes right up to the Talaimannar pier,” John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka, said here on Wednesday.

He also said that he understands that there are some issues on the South Indian side which needs to be fixed for the ferry services to become operational and that officials of the Sri Lanka High Commission is working with the Indian government to resolve the issue.

“The ferry service will not only enable transport of people from both sides but also help movement of other vehicles and heavy equipment,” Amaratunga added.

Reviving the tourism

In a bid to revive the country’s international tourism which was badly hit after the Easter day terror attack in April, the minister also highlighted Sri Lanka’s tourist-friendly initiatives such as free visa on arrival scheme announced recently to India and 47 other countries.

He also announced waiver of flight handling charges to attract more inbound flights to the country.

Tourism is the third highest foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka. In 2018, the country had an inflow of 2.3 million tourists bringing a revenue of about $4.3 billion.

Upbeat on India

“Our primary focus is on Indian tourists. Given the size of Indian population, even if half a percentage of Indians visit Sri Lanka then we don’t have to depend on any other country,” Amaratunga said.

Indian tourists accounts for the highest number of arrivals in Sri Lanka followed by China and European countries. In 2018, Indians accounted for 18.2 per cent of total tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka with 424,887 inbound arrivals.

The island-nation is looking forward to a drastic increase in the total Indian tourist given the proximity between the two countries.

“Even after the attacks, Sri Lanka hosted a West Asia Baseball cup in Colombo in July with the participation of six international teams. This shows the confidence reposed by the international community on Sri Lanka,” said Yasantha De Silva Yaddehi, Minister (Commercial), Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission, said.