The Sri Lankan government has launched a new campaign to lure tourists back to the country after last month's tsunami killed tens of thousands and left dozens of hotels damaged or destroyed. Many people are confident it will not be long before the tourism sector has recovered completely.
The Lighthouse Hotel and Spa overlooks a natural sea wall made of boulders, into which waves crash before the water spills into a small lagoon. This five-star hotel is in Sri Lanka's southern city of Galle, much of which was destroyed by last month's tsunami.
The hotel is perched about six meters above the water, so no one inside was injured when the tsunami swept into the city, and the hotel itself suffered minor damage. But 17 visitors who had been enjoying the view from the boulders were swept out to sea and drowned.
Despite the tragedy here and across the country, the hotel's general manager, Sanjiva Gautamadasa, says he is confident tourism in the area will soon recover,
I don't think it will be too long," he said. "It's just a matter of getting [our] act together and getting the roads cleaned up. I don't think people want to come to a depressing looking place."
The Sri Lankan government wants to speed the recovery along. It has launched "Bounce Back Sri Lanka," an advertising campaign aimed at luring foreign tourists back to the country. In some places, the tourism board is offering three nights of free accommodation to those who buy fly in.
The goal of the "Bounce Back" campaign is to convince tourists Sri Lanka still has much to offer despite the tragedy.
"Sri Lanka is offering wellness tourism, sports tourism, adventure tourism, religious tourism, of course cultural tourism, and those things are totally intact. Even beach tourism is really not destroyed. The West Coast is very much in place," said Udaya Nanayakkara, the chairman of Sri Lanka's Tourist Board.
This week, officials of the Tourism Ministry are expected to meet with the managers of several large hotels to discuss priorities for rebuilding the tourist sector. The ministry also plans to invite 200 travel writers from around the world to see for themselves how much is still functioning despite the tragedy.
Mr. Nanyakkara says the government also has to convince foreign governments to lift travel advisories warning tourists of the potential for diseases in the disaster's aftermath - a threat he says does not exist.
"[The] only problem that lies is the respective countries' travel advisories - all of them still talk about [the] ill health situation, which is very unfortunate because we haven't got a single reported case that is documented of any such diseases," he said.
Some guesthouse owners catering to Sri Lanka's backpacker and surfing travelers say the government is ignoring them in favor of the large hotels. But the Tourism Board says it will be offering smaller hotel owners incentives - so they, too, can begin to rebuild.