Public sector institutions in the country earned a whopping Rs. 8.3 billion last year from tourism-related services, the Tourism Development Minister told Parliament on Thursday.

“Sigiriya alone has earned revenue of Rs. 1.6 billion from foreign tourists in 2015, while the other heritage sites, including the cultural triangle, earned another Rs. 2.5 billion from foreign tourists, in addition to Rs. 1 billion earned from the entry fees of wildlife parks and Rs. 1 billion from the tourism development levy and another Rs. 2 billion from the embarkation tax paid by tourists,” Minister John Amaratunga informed Parliament.

According to the Minister, based on the current growth projections, the ministry has set a target of 4.5 million arrivals by the end of 2020.

“We are also targeting tourism revenue to grow to $ 10 billion by the time, making it the number one foreign exchange earner for the country,” he said.

In an attempt to regularise the informal sector in tourism, the Minister and Finance Minister met with all online travel agents including Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor.

“We met them to enlighten them about our intention and seek their assistance to regularise the informal sector so that they too like the formal sector would directly contribute to the country’s economy by paying taxes,” he said.

Furthermore, the Minister told Parliament that the leading global hotel chains were continuing to invest in Sri Lanka.

“A few days ago the world-renowned Radisson Hotel of the US announced plans to construct two to three hotels in various parts of the island,” he said.

The minimum room rates have been allowed to continue until 2018, at which point we will review the situation and make suitable amendments.

During 2016, SLTPB planned 122 country-specific promotions in 22 markets including 58 travel fairs and road shows. An international destination marketing campaign, which has been on the drawing board for some time, will soon see the light of day probably in the first quarter of 2017.

This article originally appears on DailyFT.

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