Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 5

Batu Caves (Malaysia) - Colombo (Sri Lanka) - Galle (Sri Lanka) - Colombo (Sri Lanka)

As with Malaysia, this is the second time, and the first in a decade, that The Amazing Race has visited Sri Lanka.

It hasn’t been easy for the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, or for those trying to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.

A civil war that began in the early 1980s dragged on for more than 20 years. International tourism in parts of the country further from the centers of the fighting continued to be a major contributor to the Sri Lankan economy throughout the war. But civil war limited the possibilities for tourism development and promotion. In 2001, in a deliberate attempt to undermine the government by cutting off the inflow of tourist spending, guerrillas attacked the international airport, doing more than a third of a billion US dollars in damage to the national airline’s fleet of long-haul airliners.

A ceasefire between the government and the rebels was negotiated in 2002, but tourism was only beginning to show signs of recovery from the war when the country was hit by a devastating tsunami on the day after Christmas, 2004. Portions of The Amazing Race 6 were filmed in Sri Lanka a few months before the tsunami, but not broadcast until a few weeks after the disaster.

There was little time for reconstruction after the tsunami before the “Great Recession” began in 2007, cutting into discretionary spending on things like tourist travel.

Boosters and investors haven’t given up hope for Sri Lanka’s future as a tourist destination, however. Cynics might say they have no choice but to pin their hopes on tourism. There’s no other obvious source of hard currency for a tropical Third World island with cheap labor but without industrial or manufacturing infrastructure or major oil, gas, or mineral reserves.

At the moment, things are going well. Foreign investment in new hotels and resorts is pouring in, and visitor numbers and spending amounts are setting new records each recent year.

The return of The Amazing Race 24 this season was facilitated in part by the reconstituted Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Perhaps the clearest sign of the tourism promoters’ success was that the words “civil war” and “tsumani” were never mentioned on the TV show, something that would until recently have been unimaginable.

On the subject of disasters, these episodes of the race in Malaysia are being broadcast during a media frenzy of interest in what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Howevere, none of the racers’ flights were into, out of, or within Malaysia on the national airline — the racers were shown travelling on Malaysia-based “low-cost” private airline Air Asia and on the Sri Lankian national carrier, Srilankan Airlnes. There’s no evidence that Malaysia Airlines had any responsibiloity for whatever happened to its Flight 370. Malaysia Airlines remains, in my opinion, one of the world’s best airlines in passenger sevice both in the air and on the ground.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 23 March 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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