Monday, December 28, 2009


Sri Lanka Tourism will promote Jaffna as a tourist destination and the Nallur festival was a platform to facilitate its efforts. This is the first step in a long way and it will empower the Jaffna economy, said Minister of Tourism Promotion.

For decades it lay at the heart of Sri Lanka`s Tamil conflict. Now that the normal life is returning, Jaffna`s once tranquil beaches are getting ready for tourists from far and wide. The Tamil residents of Jaffna peninsula, in the island`s very northern tip, are hoping that the beaches would badly revive their battered economy and improve their own living standards. The Sri Lankan Tourism officials are brimming with confidence. They feel that Jaffna`s beaches, once opened, would be a valuable addition to local and foreign tourists.

Now we are preparing to develop Sri Lanka`s north in a big way, S. Kalaiselvam, a Tamil who heads the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, told me when I met him on a conference. It will not be an easy task though. Jaffna, the heartland of Sri Lanka`s Tamil minority, is where Tamil militancy erupted in the 1970s. For a quarter century, Jaffna was deprived of tourism. The hundreds of thousands of tourists who flocked to Sri Lanka settled for the beaches on the country`s western and southern coasts.

Only recently have the beaches in the east begun to pick up traffic. Jaffna is also now without the infrastructure to house tourists should they start coming. There are issues of security. Many coastal areas remain dotted with military installations. Jaffna now has only about 50 hotel rooms, officials say. In two years, they hope to have nearly 1,000 rooms there. There is a tremendous amount of interest in the private sector to develop hotels in the north as we hope to receive a large number of tourists. They are confident that the territory that lay untapped for 25 years would now be fully developed for tourism. It is a huge area having beautiful beaches and tourists would like it.

Sri Lankan authorities plan to increase the number of the hugely popular flights from Colombo to Jaffna from the present three to six a week. Flight services are running from Ratmalana Airport (Colombo) to Pallali (Jaffna) by the Sri Lanka Air Force, Deccan Aviation and Expo Aviation. The return airfare is Rs. 17,000.The officials said to me that they are planning to introduce a ferry service from Colombo to the north so that the tourists enjoy the sea route. It would be a beautiful experience. Tourists would spend an entire day on the ferry. For those who like to travel overland, there will be the winding A-9 highway connecting Colombo to Jaffna peninsula via a narrow isthmus called the Elephant Pass so named because it was once an elephant track. That highway has remained shut for years because of the war. In the process much of the road has ceased to exist. The government is according priority to repairing the highway since most travellers can only afford the bus. It will be repaired within three months, the tourism official said. It will provide easy road access to (Jaffna).

Sri Lanka`s winding palm-fringed and sandy beaches attract millions of tourists every year. The picturesque beach fronts in Karainagar and Kayts Island in the Jaffna Peninsula will also to be developed to attract tourists, said the tourism officials. The Social Services and Social Welfare Ministry declared that the Kazurina coastal belt in Karainagar and the Charti belt in Kayts as tourism promotion zones recently. The officials said the access road to Karainagar Island would be rehabilitated to promote accelerated development while a luxury tourist hotel would be built in the Kazurina coastal belt. The most popular beaches are Negombo, Colombo, Mount Lavinia, Bentota, Hikkaduwa and Galle, all of them dotted along the west and southwest coast and which were far removed from the conflict zone. Less known but equally attractive beaches also lie on the east coast: Trincomalee, Nilaveli and Arugam Bay. Sri Lankan beaches are known for sun bathing, diving, fishing, surfing, underwater photography and water sports.

Jaffna’s tourism industry to bounce back in 2010
The travel and tourism industry in Jaffna is expected to be fully operational by the second half of next year as development work is improving rapidly. The entrepreneurs in the travel industry are getting ready to meet this potential demand by improving accommodation, building new hotels, improving transport and other services. A few star hotels are being built and another 35 rooms will be ready by early next year. Jaffna is going to be crowded compared to previous years and people have peace of mind to travel even at midnight without any fear. As a result many people are seen in the city until late evenings. Around 2,500-3,000 people move to and from to Jaffna by road daily and another 100-150 by air including Government officials, VIPs and foreigners.
There is a special two-day tour package has been introduced by travel agents where visitors can enjoy traditional Jaffna food, accommodation and transport to visit important places at an affordable rate. A number of private sector companies such as insurance, banks and hospitals have started businesses and some banks have approved loans from Rs 200,000 up to Rs 5 million. This has resulted in a keen interest among those who wish to invest in SMEs.
If all goes well, Jaffna would see all that and perhaps more.


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1 comment:

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