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More Indian tourists visit Lanka, Mauritius

C.J. Punnathara

KOCHI, Sept. 23

WITH domestic airfares ruling much higher than those for competing international destinations such as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Maldives and Thailand, the Indian tourist seems to have been bitten by the international travel bug.

Despite the drop in airline capacity post-September 11, foreign tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka grew by 35 per cent last year.

"With the drying up of Western arrivals, Indian tourists have been partly fuelling the growth in tourist influx,'' Mr Rajeev Nangia, India Manager of Sri Lanka Tourism Board, said.

Outbound visitors from India had been growing by close to 20 per cent since 1995, said Mr Kavi Ghei, Director of TRAC Representations.Liberalised forex regulations, economic reforms and the increasing desire to travel overseas have led to this growth.

Sri Lanka provided a classic example of this growth, Mr Nangia said.

Fuelled by aggressive marketing, special deals and general change in trends promoting regional destinations, the number of Indian visitors to Sri Lanka is poised to more than double during this year.

From around 10 per cent of the total tourist arrivals last year, Indian visitors were set to grow to 20 per cent this year, Mr Nangia said.

Going by these trends, the Lankan tourism sector is bullish that in the not too distant future, Indian visitors would account for close to 50 per cent of the total tourist arrivals to the island.

The case of Mauritius is no different. Indian tourist arrivals to this destination have been growing by around 20 per cent during the past couple of years.

With 6.31 lakh visitors last year, Mauritian tourism, which earned $1.2 billion last year, is the second largest industry of this island nation, after sugarcane, Mr Viraat Raj Bhalla of Mauritius Tourism, told Business Line.

The island destination is ideally suited to the Indian traveller with contrasting climate, Mr Akhlasur Rahman, Maritim Hotel Mauritius said.

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