About Sri Lanka
This Indian Ocean country, like its northern neighbor India, is rich in history that goes back thousands of years (much of it rooted in the Buddhist religion – whose founder, Buddha – a.k.a. Siddhartha Gautama, was born in Nepal in the 6th century BC). This island’s countryside is laden with reminders of the locals’ ancient link to that religion – from modestly-sized shrines to majestic mountainside carvings.
Like other Asian countries, Sir Lanka’s medieval period was best remembered as an end to independence. The first Europeans to settle in Sri Lanka were the Portuguese, who arrived in 1505, and setting up a colonial presence at the port city of Colombo and nearby coastal areas. By the mid-1600s, the Dutch successfully fought the Portuguese for control of Sri Lanka – ending in the process the existence of that island’s last kingdom (the Kingdom of Kandy). In 1815, the British took possession of Sri Lanka and for a number of years ran a lucrative coffee economy there. The depression of 1847 and a fall in international coffee prices helped gradually end that economy (along with a disease that crippled coffee crops in 1869). Coffee production was replaced with tea plantations, which revived the island’s agrarian sector by the late 19th century.
With nearby India gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1947, Sri Lanka achieved the same the year after (1948), which eventually resulted in the country’s two major ethnic groups( the majority Sinhalese people, and the minority Tamil community) competing for power. Such simmering tensions flared into armed conflict when the rebel group, the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” (LTTE) began launching attacks against the Sinhalese-dominated government, which became the Sri Lankan Civil War in 1983. Much of the fighting between the two sides was waged in the Tamil areas of northern and eastern Sri Lanka, until the end of that war in 2009 (when the LTTE was defeated by government forces).
With memories of Sri Lanka’s ethnically-based civil war fading away, the local government wants to promote tourism, given its Indian Ocean location and tropical weather. According to the Sri Lankan government, the number of tourists that visited the island jumped from 448,000 in 2009 to 1.27 million in 2013. The World Travel & Tourism Council confirmed that tourism contributed as much as 4.8% of the country’s GDP.