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Sri Lanka’s biodiversity on show: Q & A with tourism and wildlife minister John Amaratunga

22 / 03 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Sri Lanka will in May host the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. While the main agenda will center on wildlife trade policies and proposed updates to protections for various species, the host country also hopes the event will prove both a tourism and image booster for Sri Lanka, shining the spotlight on the island’s unique biodiversity. John Amaratunga, Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism development and wildlife, said the government’s target was to have 2.5 million visitors this year, most of them expected to be drawn to the island for its natural beauty and biodiversity. The country is fast emerging as a tourism hub, and has been rated the top destination in 2019 by Lonely Planet, a leading travel guide, which noted in particular Sri Lanka’s “rich and accessible wildlife.” In an interview with Mongabay, Amaratunga said the CITES conference, from May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, would highlight the point that Sri Lanka is a destination where a diversity of nature and wildlife can be experienced in a short span of time. “The country is beautiful, safe and infrastructure ready,” he said. Mongabay: What are your key expectations from being the host country of CITES CoP18? John Amaratunga: It is a unique opportunity to do some serious destination branding. For wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers, who contribute significantly to Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, the conference is an educational opportunity to learn about this…

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