S Lanka tourism earnings hit by war worries- official

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COLOMBO, Nov 22 (Reuters) Sri Lanka will see a 20 per cent fall in tourist arrivals and revenue for 2007 due to the renewed civil war between the state and the Tamil Tiger rebels, a tourism official said.

Tourist arrivals were down 19.7 per cent in the first ten months of the year after a resurgence of conflict in a two-decade war between the state and Tamil Tigers guerrillas discouraged visitors earlier in the year.

''There is going to be an overall 20 per cent drop in tourist arrivals. So the revenue will also drop by 20 per cent -- due to a drop in earnings-per-day per tourist,'' said S. Kalaiselvam, director general of Sri Lanka Tourism yesterday.

Tourist arrivals in October fell 4.6 per cent to 37,011 compared with 38,815 a year earlier, the board said in its monthly bulletin on tourist arrivals.

The country's tourism industry targetted 600,000 tourists for 2007, but revised it to 500,000 after a significant drop in March to June this year, following the Tamil Tiger rebels' air strike on Sri Lanka airport, industry officials said. Officials now say the latest target may not be reached.

Sri Lanka attracted 559,603 tourists in 2006.

Arrivals in August were down 15.5 per cent, itself a sharp improvement compared to a 40 per cent drop in May -- when night flights were halted at the island's only international airport for seven weeks, after Tamil rebels bombed an adjacent air force base.

A number of foreign embassies had advised their nationals to avoid north and east Sri Lanka because of a two-decade civil war that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983 and around 5,000 people since early last year.

According to central bank data, earnings from tourism in the first half of 2007 fell by 19.6 per cent from a year earlier to 217.9 million dollars.

REUTERS SKB RK0925

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