Sri Lanka hopes to attract one million tourists, including Indians, this year, a senior tourism official said on Wednesday, as the cash-strapped island tries to ride out its worst economic crisis in decades.

With over 74,000 arrivals, India tops the list of tourists to Sri Lanka from January to July 2022, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

The UK, with 58,000 arrivals and Russia with 48,000, came second and third on the list.

“We are expecting 1 million tourists this year,” Priantha Fernando told reporters on Wednesday.

Revenue of $1.8 billion is expected if current arrivals totaling 500,000 are to be doubled by the end of the year, according to official estimates.

The tourism sector is the country’s main source of foreign exchange.

However, the outbreak of the pandemic has crippled this sector, and one of the main reasons for the country’s current economic difficulties.

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“2018 was the best year for tourism with 2.3 million arrivals. With $4.3 billion in revenue, the tourism sector was ranked as the third largest foreign exchange earner that year behind remittances. of expatriate funds and the garment export industry,” said Fernando.

In 2019, the area was hit hard due to the Easter Sunday terrorist attack, while in the following two years of 2020 and 2021, Covid-19 scared tourists, he explained. .

In 2021, Sri Lanka recorded a tourist attendance of only 1,94,000.

A new tourism policy will be adopted to meet the target of 2.5 million tourist arrivals, said Chulananda Perera, a senior official with the Ministry of Tourism.

On Tuesday, Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said the government would introduce five-year multiple-entry tourist visas with a six-month stay for 35 countries, including India.

The decision was made to boost “repeat tourism” in the country.

Sri Lanka has been grappling with economic turmoil not seen since its independence from Britain in 1948.

The economic crisis has also created political unrest in the country.

There have been street protests in Sri Lanka against the government since early April over its mishandling of the economic crisis.

Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government is hoping an IMF rescue package, which could be officially announced on Thursday, could be the possible antidote for Sri Lanka’s beleaguered economy.

A crippling shortage of foreign exchange reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other necessities, while power cuts and soaring food prices have deepened misery Population.