The Tourism Ministry is anticipating a 35 percent growth in the country’s tourism sector during this year aiming to take the country forward as a foremost tourist destination in Asia.

According to Tourism Promotion Minister Faizer Musthapha the tourism sector has recorded a considerable growth during the past few months due to moves taken by the Government to restore peace by putting an end to nearly three decades old conflict.

The country’s tourism sector has achieved a remarkable 28 per cent growth during July this year while our middle East Market has shown a mammoth growth of 104 percent during the same month compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, Minister Musthapha told the Daily News yesterday. ”The influx began in June after the LTTE was defeated in May. The end of the three decades old war has brought many tourists from all parts of the globe to the country,” he said.

During the first seven months of the year 229,952 total tourist arrivals were reported. On the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa,the Ministry has started an aggressive marketing campaign to attract more tourist arrivals to the country.

The UK, India, Middle East, China, France, Germany and Eastern Europe have been identified as key markets. In addition emphasis is laid to promote tourism activities with all SAARC countries.

Meanwhile, the President has given a target to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016.

There should be approximately 50,000 hotel rooms in Sri Lanka to achieve the target. In addition, the country is targeting half a million tourist arrivals and US$ 400 million in earnings in 2010, he said.

Under the aggressive marketing campaign launched by the Tourism Ministry, opportunities will be provided for investors to set up tourist resorts while the SME sector will also be encouraged to start small scale tourism establishments.

A series of major development activities are taking place in Kalpitiya and the Eastern Province. There will be major development in the tourism sector in the near future.

Investors have shown a key interest to invest in the country while the tourists themselves are interested in visiting Sri Lanka due to the prevailing peaceful situation, the Minister added.