Sri Lanka - Tourism, travel, and recreation

The principal tourist attraction is the sacred city of Anuradhapura, home of the Seated Buddha, Buddhist temples, palaces, and the sacred bo tree, grown from a sapling of the tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Other popular sites include the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Kandy, with its Dalada Maligawa temple, where a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is preserved. The botanical gardens near Kandy and the Dehiwela Zoo at Colombo are also popular.

Sri Lanka's recreational facilities include the beach resorts of Bentota and Negombo, which, like Colombo, have modern hotels. Popular water sports are swimming, fishing, sailing, surfing, water skiing, and skin diving. The island has excellent facilities for golf, tennis, squash, soccer, rugby, and cricket.

Visitors need a valid passport and a visa, except for nationals of most Western European, ASEAN, and ANZUS countries, as well as Japan, who may stay for up to a month without a visa. Passengers traveling through infected areas must also possess valid certificates of vaccination against yellow fever.

International tourism has grown in Sri Lanka in response to the governments promotion of the industry. Europe is the leading generating region of tourists, accounting for over 60% of the 400,414 tourists in 2000. Tourism receipts were estimated at $253 million that year. The country had 15,860 hotel rooms with 29,363 bed-places and a 52% occupancy rate.

According to 1999 UN estimates, the cost of staying in Colombo was $94 per day. Elsewhere in the country, travel expenses averaged $60 per day.

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