Colombo [Sri Lanka], November 23 (ANI): Indo-Sri Lankan cultural relations will get a re-boost with the "spiritual tourism" efforts as a part of the Ramayana heritage tourism.
The cultural tourism initiative got a major boost under the Narendra Modi government as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed to promote Ramayana in 2016, said an article in Colombo Gazette.
The MoU said the two countries would work jointly to promote mutual tourism interests.
Earlier both India and Sri Lanka had agreed in 2008 to work on enhancing shared cultural and religious values based on Ramayana heritage.
The Colombo Gazette article said Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) helps create the "Ramayana Trail in Lanka" to promote its "spiritual tourism".
In October 2021, new measures to boost bilateral travel between Sri Lanka and India came under review at the third meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) dedicated to tourism.
Jeewana Fernando, who is in charge of the Ramayana Trail at the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), said that they are gearing up to promote the Ramayana Trail post-pandemic and have already earmarked promoting many of the 52 sites that are located in the country.
"The SLTDA annually allocates around Rs 20 million for promoting the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and they have coordinated with many Hindu religious missions in India to bring devotees to Sri Lanka on the Ramayana heritage," he said.
"The SLTDA has identified and promoted only 32 sites that are located in the fabulous natural beauty of the county and is hoping to promote the rest of the attractions in the coming years," he added.
The JWG follows the mandate of the Indo-Sri Lankan inter-governmental bilateral MoU signed in January 2004 which has developed bilateral tourism and has drawn a large number of Indian visitors to Sri Lanka in recent times.
The "Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka" and the spiritual tourism had cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga and Arvinda Desilva as brand ambassadors.
Despite being a Buddhist country, Sri Lankan audience is fascinated by the Ramayana movies and television episodes aired from India which helps them to be culturally connected.
Sri Lanka understands the importance of the cultural connection between New Delhi and Colombo through the Ramayana epic along with the other being the Mahabharat.
The fillip to the initiate has assumed more significance post-pandemic with the Sri Lanka government has earmarked the initiative to promote the Ramayana Trail as a part of its expanding tourism industry.
The Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority along with the Indian government has been the brain behind "Spiritual Tourism".
According to SLTDA, at least 250,000 Indian tourists annually visit one of the 52 sites of the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka which will increase following the easing of the restriction once the pandemic is over, Colombo Gazette article said.
The top Ramayana Trails is the Sita Amman Temple in Nuwara Eliya, and Indian tourists never fail to visit.
Despite facing competition from China, Indian tourists are the top visitors. Factually, there were around 426, 000 Indian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, whereas Chinese tourists accounted for only 267, 000.
While the Indian government is promoting Sri Lankan Buddhists to visit the Buddhist trails in India, it's an opportunity for both countries to promote each other to strengthen the economies when the global economy has plummeted due to COVID-19.
Sri Lanka has more attractions for all religions, and the Ramayana Trail tops them all. (ANI)