Colombo, Jan 2 (IANS) Sri Lanka on Monday said that it has set a target of welcoming 2.5 million tourists to the island nation in 2017.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga told Xinhua news agency that the country had already exceeded the 2 million tourist arrival mark in 2016 and now it hoped to attract a further 2.5 million tourists by the end of 2017.
Up to November 2016, the government had achieved a little more than 1.8 million tourists with the leading markets being India and China.
He further said that the closure of the Bandaranaike International Airport for certain hours from January to April would have an effect on the number of tourist arrivals this year.
"This is worrying and I have taken the matter up with the authorities concerned. However we will do our best to achieve the targets set and ensure that tourism becomes the leading foreign exchange earner," Amaratunga said.
The country's main international airport will be closed from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. every day from January 6 to April 6 due to maintenance work on the runway. Several flights have had to re-schedule their arrivals and departures to Colombo as a result of the maintenance.
Passengers travelling during this period have also been advised to arrive at the airport five hours prior to their flight departure.
Meanwhile Amaratunga said the government had planned mega publicity campaigns to be launched in several cities across the world this year, which would promote Sri Lanka as an ideal tourist destination.