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.


Saudi women mark National Day behind the steering wheel

Saudi women are celebrating the National Day behind the steering wheel. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Saudi women mark National Day behind the steering wheel

  • Under King Salman and his crown prince, women have been able to obtain their rights and become ambassadors to all the countries of the world

MAKKAH/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s celebration of its 88th National Day comes at a time when the Kingdom is achieving remarkable progress economically and socially, most notably lifting the ban on women driving.
This is the first National Day in which Saudi women can drive their cars. Writer Heba Qazi said it is a beautiful feeling, and Saudi women can now participate in celebrations and exercise their legitimate right nationwide.
The 88th National Day is a great opportunity to remember past glories and recognize the great sacrifices of those who have held high the banner of Saudi women’s rights, she added.
Under King Salman and his crown prince, women have been able to obtain their rights and become ambassadors to all the countries of the world, she said.
The king and crown prince are “consolidating the stature of this nation and granting women all their rights, including driving cars,” added Qazi
“We take pride in this great day and this important privilege, celebrating National Day for the first time from behind the driving wheel,” she said.
“We also take pride in the nation’s achievements at all levels, and we are endeavoring to highlight the status of women in all fields.”
Psychologist and sociologist Hasna Al-Tallahi said the Kingdom has established itself as the strongest nation in the region by promoting its political and economic position, winning the respect of the entire world and respecting women’s status.
“It also managed to hinder the efforts of many parties to diminish the role of women in all fields,” she added.
“When women obtained some of their rights, most importantly driving, they felt free. They were responsible for their time and family, and were not at the mercy of drivers and society.”
King Salman supports the rights of the most vulnerable worldwide, and the rights of Saudi women by listening to their demands, Al-Tallahi said, expressing great pride in her nation, its leadership and people.
“Challenges are always present and so are their solutions,” she added. “With each new challenge, solutions are created … to achieve women’s progress, growth and advancement.”’
Mesbah Abdulhakim, a supervisor at a hotel in Makkah, said the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan gives a great deal of attention to women’s issues.
“Lifting the driving ban imposed on women paved the way for many job opportunities in various sectors, not only in health and education,” she added.
Journalist Amira Qatabri said: “Lifting the driving ban on women led to a division between the conservative movement, which controls many aspects of social life in the Kingdom, and a more understanding and open elite.”
Women being able to drive is not just symbolic, but part of what may be the largest transformation in Saudi society in half a century, she added.
Hind Khalid Al-Zahid, the first female Saudi executive director — for the Dammam Airport Co. — and head of the Businesswomen’s Center at the Eastern Province’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This is a very important year in the Kingdom’s history.”
She said: “It establishes a foundation for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, giving women an opportunity to be part of what is happening in the Kingdom regarding national transformation, in line with Vision 2030.”
Saudi actor and presenter Khairiah Abu Laban said: “I am really short for words, and do not know how to thank our leadership for this beautiful feeling.”