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Monday, October 3, 2016


Introduction From early historical times, Sri Lanka has attracted foreign visitors. Many books, particularly by British administrators, have been written based on the different attractions of the Island. The first attempt to develop tourism in Sri Lanka was made by the colonial government prior to the Second World War. The Government Tourist Bureau was set up in 1937. Although international tourism in the modern sense was unknown at the time, the objective in setting up the Bureau was to provide facilities and services to the large volume of passengers who sailed between the West and the East through the port of Colombo on passenger ships. Sri Lanka’s primary location on the world sea lanes attracted many cruise ships, freighters and other vessels. Passengers that entered the port of Colombo disembarked and enjoyed sightseeing in Colombo, Kandy and their surroundings. The Tourist Bureau’s primary responsibility was to service these passengers when they came ashore by greeting them and providing sight seeing tours. Although accurate records are unavailable, it is estimate that approximately one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand passengers visited the country per annum. The Tourist Bureau ceased its operations in 1940 due to the commencement of World War II. Due to the War there was little tourist activity. Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 and the new government decided to revive tourist activities by setting up the second Tourist Bureau which came to be known as the Government Tourist Bureau. The Government Tourist Bureau which was set up in 1948 functioned under the Ministry of Commerce for some time and was brought under the Ministry of Defenses. The functions that were assigned to the revived Tourist Bureau were much wider than its earlier responsibilities. In addition to providing meeting and greeting facilities it was entrusted with the functions of undertaking tourist promotional work overseas and to develop tourist accommodation facilities. An officer designated as Director was placed in-charge of the Bureau and separate divisions were entrusted with the tasks of handling the new functions assigned to it. During the 1950s there was a rapid growth of international tourism and it extended to all parts of the world. International tourist arrivals increased at an annual average rate of 7.1% from 23.5 million in 1950 to 561.0 million in 1995 more than a 22 fold increase over a period of four and a half decades. During this period, the average yearly growth rate has been as high as 10.6% which however has gradually slowed down to 4.1% in the 90s. This was largely due to the introduction of jet aircraft for civilian transport after World War II. Consequently it became necessary for the countries to build new airports with wider and longer runways and parking bays, larger spaces, and terminal buildings with modern facilities


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