With close to four lakh Indians having visited Sri Lanka in 2017 alone, the island nation is hoping to double this number by educating its biggest tourism market about its connection with the epic Ramayana.

On Saturday, the official website of the ‘Ramayana Yatra’ was launched at the second day of the 106th edition of the ‘India International Travel Mart’ (IITM) here.

V. Krishnamoorthy, Deputy High Commissioner, Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission, Chennai, said India was the number one tourist market for Sri Lankan tourism. “In the last six months, over two lakh Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka, which is a 19.3% growth for the same period last year. The Ramayana Yatra is to make people aware of over 50 Ramayana sites in Sri Lanka,” he said.

The tourism wings of Sri Lanka went about researching and unearthing the sites connected to the epic at a time when many Indian tourists who were in Sri Lanka expressed interest in visiting some of the well-known sites, officials said.

Legends are associated with sites which are said to be a crucial part of the epic, such as the place of Sita’s captivity to the battlefields of war where Rama slew Ravana, including Sita Kotuwa, Gurulupotha, Nagadeepa, Sita Pokuna, Sita Amman temple, Kataragama, and Kelaniya, officials said.

Mr. Krishnamoorthy said the intention behind launching a dedicated space for the Ramayana Yatra was to streamline information available on the sites and enable tour operators and visitors to come up with routes and packages.

John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism, Sri Lanka, who launched the website, said among the Indians who visit Sri Lanka, many have the intention of visiting the Ramayana sites. “We realised this. Proper identification of the sites was needed. So the Ministry of Tourism went deep into tracing all of it,” he said.

The overall scope for Indian tourists to contribute to Sri Lankan tourism was much larger, he said. “The number of Indians coming to Sri Lanka has increased. But this is not enough. They need to know that their neighbour has everything to offer. I don’t think any Asian country can offer the same diversity. We are an island with 365 days of summer. We offer sea, sand, 2,500 years of documented history, culture, heritage, Ceylon tea, adventure, wellness, wildlife, biodiversity, UNESCO sites, and casinos. The connectivity between India and Sri Lanka is also very high,” he said.

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