Written by Editorial Director, CNN
Sri Lanka reopened its international borders on Wednesday, 18 years after the Tamil Tigers began a brutal war that killed more than 100,000 people.
The opening follows the country’s restoration of peace in 2009 after a quarter century of civil war that pitted minority Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan state against the Tigers.
Colombo’s move to reopen the border was symbolically timed with the World Tourism Day, which was held this year in the Indian Ocean island nation.
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“We … welcome our World Tourism Day visitors,” External Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana said in a statement. “We are determined to transform Sri Lanka into an exciting, vibrant and safe destination for tourists and business travelers from around the world.”
While airports in the city of Colombo have long been open, the international borders to its northern and eastern parts had been closed since the end of the conflict.
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The reopening comes as Sri Lanka opens new tourist attractions. In April, the island nation celebrated the opening of the famed Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, a 90-acre complex featuring hotels, pools, gardens and a shopping area.
The annual celebrations of the World Tourism Day coincide with a UN climate change summit in Bonn, Germany. In 2011, Sri Lanka was given the award as “Tourism Innovation” for its work in the tourism and tourism promotion sectors.
In recent years, the island nation has seen a surge in tourism arrivals.
The population of the island nation has expanded since the civil war, thanks to a strategic influx of foreign workers from India and Bangladesh. Sri Lanka is expected to receive 1.1 million international tourists in 2018, up from 702,000 in 2013, according to a report by OAG Asia, a tourism research and advisory firm.
Ferry schedules and flights to and from Sri Lanka are typically difficult to obtain, due to a lack of travel visas. When CNN caught up with some of the new holidaymakers in 2013, they described the journey as “really, really boring.”
“It was in fear of the moment,” 22-year-old Ursula Marion told CNN about the flight from Frankfurt to Colombo, Germany.
The inclusion of motorcycles in the Sri Lankan tourism appeal is one that has gone largely unnoticed. Asia travel website G Adventures reported that the island nation is home to three types of mountain biking.
Apart from existing tourism hotspots such as Kandy, the travelers said that a large number of bicycle trails are available on the island.