Booming tourism on scenic isle

Silhouettes of fishermen are seen at the Galle beach during sunset.
Updated 03 February 2017
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Booming tourism on scenic isle

Sri Lanka is among this year’s biggest tourism destinations — with the island attracting an increasing number of visitors.
The island attracted 2,058,000 tourists in 2016, an increase of 14 percent compared with the previous year, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the number was the highest ever.
While it promises well for the industry, the numbers were far below that of competing destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, which draw 25-30 million tourists annually, the minister said. He further stated that earnings from tourism increased to $3.5 billion in 2016 from $2.8 billion in 2015.
Sri Lanka has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists in 2017 and intends to open its doors to four million tourists by 2020, according to the minister.
Beaches
The exotic Sri Lankan beaches have long been the reason behind the substantial number of tourists the island is attracting. Some of the most pristine shores, each differing from the cities across the island, have caught the eye of not just those who wish to sunbathe, but also diving aficionados and those who love water sports.
Historical cities and monuments
What’s more exciting about a trip to Sri Lanka is that it is home to around eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The rich diversity of the county is why travel bloggers who have visited Sri Lanka spam our Instagram-feeds with picture-perfect green sceneries and sunset silhouettes on white sandy shorelines.
Other attractions are the colonial ruins, national parks and the country’s famous tea plantations.
Culinary culture
Gourmet globetrotters have been visiting the island to indulge in the street food and the traditional repasts of rice and curry. The variety to feast on includes tropical fruit, spice-infused curries, freshly-caught seafood and great street food — all of which has made Sri Lanka a foodie’s paradise.
Luxury hotels and infrastructure
With the fast-growing infrastructure in place to promote the industry, the island is seeing an upgrade in its air, sea, road, power and telecom backbone.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has been on the radar of international visitors not only for its beaches and attractions but as of late largely for its growing global luxury hotel brands.
Although a few years ago Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an ideal choice for luxury, with a promising economic outlook the island has been drawing big luxury names investing into the industry.
According to the latest JLL report “Charting an Upward Momentum” on the island’s hospitality industry, the island is seeing the entry of internationally-branded hotels on a large scale, starting from on the south-west coast before spreading to the capital of Colombo and eventually to other parts of the country.
Wildlife tourism
Wildlife tourism has been garnering much interest from visitors over the last few decades, mostly due to the increasing awareness of conservation of Sri Lankan wild animals.
Home to around 123 species of mammals, 277 species of birds, 173 species of reptiles and 140 species of amphibians, Sri Lanka is also the world’s best place to experience wildlife. Tourists flock to Mirissa for a feast of dolphin and whale watching. Yala holds the country’s second largest wildlife parks known for its variety of wild animals. It has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
The Sinharaja forest reserve is another attraction that allows tourists to experience the wilderness of a rainforest buzzing with exotic birds and insects.
Ask any tourist who has just returned from a vacation in Sri Lanka and they will tell you why a trip to the pearl of the Indian Ocean is a perfect holiday getaway. It is undoubtedly affordable, and will certainly have you booking a return trip.


Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2018
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Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

  • Cliffs in Tuwaiq were formed as a result of the movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift
  • Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site

Thrill seekers and fitness gurus all over the Kingdom will be pleased to know that their choices for weekend activities have increased. 

Several tour operators in Riyadh have started offering trips to the area known as the Edge of the World, making the location more accessible than ever.

With the country’s obesity rates on the rise and many citizens growing more concerned about their physical health and stress levels, people are seeking ways to maintain their fitness without having to restrict themselves to the monotony of a gym routine.

One such solution that has steadily increased in popularity over the past year is hiking, which many have embraced as being much more exciting and fulfilling than spending hours on the treadmill. And most popular of all for hiking and other fitness activities in a natural setting is the magnificent landmark of Jabal Fihrayn, more commonly known as the Edge of the World.

Described as a “window framed by rock,” the Edge of the World offers stunning views of the valley below, a lush grove of acacia trees teeming with wildlife and vegetation. The spot is well-known for being a favorite of visiting picnickers.

Hikers can choose from several trails of varying levels of difficulty, making their way to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment to take in the magnificent views at the top of the trail, where the colossal cliff faces drop off to reveal the dizzying height from the valley below. In addition to the rich wildlife unique to the location, you can also find samples of fossilized coral and raw mineral deposits in certain areas of the valley.

The cliffs in the areas were formed as a result of the tectonic movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift situated 1,000 km to the west of Tuwaiq.

Due to the increasing popularity of the site, the authorities have built a hardtop that leads to the gates of the sites and arrangements are in place to protect the area and its natural treasures. 

Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site. The more intrepid explorer also has the option to go alone; though past visitors recommend that solo travelers take an all-terrain, 4x4 vehicle and extra precaution. Visitors can spend the day at the site and leave before 6 p.m. (when the gates are closed for the night) or stay behind for a night of camping to enjoy the sunset and the breathtaking celestial views of a star-studded night sky.

Nora Alfard, amateur hiking enthusiast and two-time visitor to the location, was quick to offer praise about her trip. 

“The trip out there was a bit tiring, but totally worth it,” she said. “The views are stunning, and the hiking itself is not that difficult. Most people should be able to make it to the top without too much trouble.” She said she was likely to go a third time, and encouraged others to do the same.

The Edge of the World is roughly 100km northwest of Riyadh, about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital. Visitors should be prepared for at least 30 minutes of hiking, possibly more depending on your trail and your level of fitness and experience. Previous visitors recommend bringing water and snacks, and stress the importance of dressing appropriately — hiking shoes only!

Decoder

What is hiking?

Hiking means a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails in the countryside. Day hikers generally carry at least food, a map or a GPS navigation device.