In a statement, the PM said tourism was the top priority of the government since 2015.
The statement is as follows :
“The Lonely Planet has named Sri Lanka as the Top Destination for 2019. I must first and foremost express our satisfaction and our delight in being so-named. This is a result of a policy we have followed from 2015, of giving prominence to tourism, of developing tourism - that today we have come into this category of being the top tourist destination.
We have to maintain this, we cannot be satisfied with one destination award; it is only a start. We have to look at the shortcomings in our tourist system (there are many), and we have to overcome them. We have to ensure that we plan for the future; that we cater for backpackers as well as high spending tourists.
What matters to us first and foremost is a high income from tourists, not merely the numbers. Today we are a destination for people from Japan, China, India, and into Europe. We have to increase the numbers coming into the country. We have to safeguard our historical monuments, we must safeguard our natural wildlife, and we have to add more attractions.
Tourism today concerns a large number of people, not merely large hoteliers but all those who have homestay accommodations, small shops, and small restaurants. We should widen and increase the numbers participating and benefitting in tourism.
At this moment I would like, first and foremost, to thank all those who are responsible for us being named a top destination. The Minister, Minister John Amaratunga and his staff, the Tourist Development Authority, members of the Tourism Task Force, and Advisory the Committee, who gave us their valuable service; all the people who are connected to and involved in the hospitality and tourism industry; and finally, I must also thank the people of Sri Lanka, for the friendly demeanor they have shown to all tourists. That’s a part of our nature, and part of our heritage.
Let us make this award, for us, a starting point to go to a higher level of tourism. We are restructuring ourselves to be an export economy, and in the export economy, the tourism has received a principle place since it can be one of the fastest foreign exchange earners. Let us make it the starting point to double the revenue that we have from tourism. Thank you.”