In an effort to restore the Sri Lankan tourism following the Easter attacks in April, the country's tourism minister John Amaratunga visited Mumbai to canvas his country as a safe destination.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai, Mr Amaratunga not only acknowledged Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Sri Lanka but also said the visit has boosted the potential for the country's tourism sector to recover.
"That was a great deal of encouragement for Sri Lanka. It will particularly help us attract Indian tourists. He came and there was no risk in it. He also visited some of the churches that were damaged and it was very successful visit," Mr Amaratunga said.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts across three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter, killing more than 250 people. The ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Sri Lankan government blamed local group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) for the bombings.
"Sri Lanka is absolutely safe. I can give you that guarantee. I am speaking based on the reports from our military and there is absolute peace in the country," Mr Amaratunga told NDTV.
However, Sri Lanka will report a decline in the number of tourists this year because of the terror attacks.
"If you look at incidents across the world, case studies prove that countries have taken 15 months to fully recover. If we do 2 million tourists this year it would be roughly a 30% decline in tourism and that's not a bad number," Kishu Gomes, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board told NDTV.
Following the Easter Sunday attacks there were attacks on Muslims in the country.
Weighing his response against the doubts in the minds of tourist's regarding visiting the Sri Lankan shores, Mr Amaratunga clarified that, "There are no problems in Sri Lanka. We have Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims and they all live in close coordination. This attack was a singular group whose motives and activities can't be explained. Rest of the Muslims in Sri Lanka are living in close coordination with the rest of the country. There are no problems at all."
"The intelligence police and armed forces are confident that the situation in Sri Lanka is absolutely safe. There can be debates as it is a free country. The country is now normal and it is business as usual. There is no problem at all," he clarified.
When asked about the deadlock between the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mr Amaratunga said, "Our president and prime minister are working cordially. There may be some differences. We also have presidential elections coming up. Tourists are not interested in government. They are interested in safety and we can firmly give them that assurance."
"Initially there were contradictory statements by politicians but that lasted only for a few weeks. Later our military and defence secretary spoke to the global media and have assured safety. We have visited all embassies in Colombo to assure them with one consistent message and that led to relaxation of advisories within two weeks of the incident. No one needs to worry about what everyone else says, just go by what the military says," Mr Gomes added.
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