Sri Lanka will transform a former war torn district in the north into a major tourism hub in the region, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement here Friday.
The Ministry said it had identified the Mannar District for major tourism infrastructure development projects and already over Rs. 40 million had been spent on making the beach areas tourist friendly.
Many other projects are also being planned to make the district the main hub for tourism in the region, the Ministry said.
“It was decided to position Mannar as the main hub for visiting key attractions in the region. The identified main attractions include the famed Madhu Church Shrine, Wilpattu National Park and a host of other sites which have been identified as having considerable tourism potential,” the statement said.
Some of the other attractions include the Thanthirimale historic temple, ancient Thiruketheeswaram Temple where it is believed rituals have been performed without a break for the past 2000 years, the Dutch period lighthouse, historic pier and fishing harbour, the Portuguese/Dutch Fort, and Adams Bridge which is a constellation of small islands stretched out over a 50 km sand strip connecting mainland India that spawned the famous legends of Hanuman, Rama and Ravana.
Among the other attractions in the district are the famous 700 year old Baobab Tree which is also called ‘elephant tree’ for the sheer size of its girth, Doric House at Arippu which at the time was built as the official residence of British Governor Frederick North in the 1800s and was described as the ‘most beautiful house in Ceylon’, and Yoda Wewa or Giants Tank built by a past Sri Lankan King in the 5th century which interestingly is the main point for the seasonal Siberian bird migration.
Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga said that plans have already been drawn by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to develop ‘home stay’ villages around the tank in order to offer an authentic experience to tourists visiting the district.
Meanwhile a beachfront area of around 300 acres will be identified as a resort area for accommodation purposes. This area will be developed on a fast track basis with all facilities for tourists while priority will be given for eco-tourism projects, the Tourism Ministry said.
Over 1 million tourists arrived in Sri Lanka in the first six months of this year with China and India being the leading markets.
Sri Lanka has set a target to welcome 2.5 million tourists this year.