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Sri Lanka today

You could say that Sri Lanka has not been spoilt by the past few decades. However, the country has gradually dressed its wounds and has begun a process of significant development. Of course, things are not perfect just yet. The country always figures among the poorest on the planet and tensions between communities in certain areas are strong.

The government relies heavily on tourism to help the country, but at the moment not everybody is profiting from this.

A country of two halves since the war.

In 2009, after 26 years of conflict between the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the country entered into a long process of reconstruction. However the scars of the war still run deep. War criminals have not always been pursued and we still do not know the official victim tally of the combat. Many of those who had to leave their homes still live in refugee camps and the situation for the minority Tamils is worrying. Tensions between the communities are still present in certain regions even if it is now possible to travel risk-free throughout the whole country.

The country has seen rapid economic development brought about by exports and the tourist industry, although it has slowed somewhat during the last two years. Sri Lanka is undergoing a transformation. Colombo is a capital under continuous construction, changing its image bit by bit. The south coast offers a new perspective thanks to the return of the tourists, and the seaside resorts are full once again. However, not everybody is profiting from this development and the breach between different sections of society is widening. Prices have kept rising for many years now, even though household incomes have remained the same.

The World Trade Centre in Colombo

Does a change of President mean new hope for the country?

In January 2015, the Sri Lankans went out in droves to elect their new President. Victory seemed certain for the outgoing President Mahinda Rajapakse, an artisan of peace and of the country's renewal. However, in a dramatic turn of events, it was his main opponent, Maithripala Sirisena, who narrowly won the race.

It seemed as if the Sri Lankan people had sent a strong message to their government that they wanted real reform in the country. But will the previous Minister for Health in the outgoing government make the much-desired political shift?

What about tourism in Sri Lanka?

With regard to tourism, the government of Sri Lanka sees the bigger picture. Chosen as the tourist destination of the year in 2013 by many professionals in the sector, Sri Lanka has not stopped attracting masses of tourists. It received 800,000 tourists in 2011, 1,200,000 in 2013 and has a target of 2,500,000 for 2016.

It has to be said that the country uses everything it has to its advantage in attracting tourists. Superb landscapes, an ancient cultural heritage, hectares of mountains and practically untouched jungle. All are ingredients for success.

The country places much emphasis on seaside tourism and the southern coastlines are being rapidly developed. But during your visit to Sri Lanka you will discover a variation in what tourists are offered. It is completely possible to stay in family home-stays, experiencing full-contact with the local population. Ecotourism is gradually developing and a number of initiatives are seeing the light of day, most notably under the impetus of the Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation.

Paul Engel
36 contributions
Updated 7 September 2015
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