Sri Lanka's Minister of Tourism and Lands, Harin Fernando, has come under fire for his comments about the Maldives at the recent ITB Berlin fair.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the fair held between March 7 - 9, Fernando compared the Maldives and Sri Lanka as tourist destinations. He was speaking about the variety of experiences offered in Sri Lanka for tourists and said that there are a lot of options available in the country, from colder mountainous areas to warm beaches, as well as wellness tourism with specialised Ayurvedic treatments.
While speaking about the beaches in Sri Lanka, Fernando added, "I know lots of people go to the Maldives... the Maldives just has the beach - I'm not criticizing - but if you stay there for five days, you get fed up of it. That's it, you're just on an island, you're caught up in one place. But in Sri Lanka, it's not like that; there's something for everyone."
A lot of Sri Lankans took to social media to express their views about the minister's comments. They were dismayed by the fact that Fernando attempted to promote Sri Lanka at the expense of the Maldives.
Some Sri Lankans went on to suggest that they should be working with the Maldives to promote their tourism.
Fernando had said that Sri Lanka was also experiencing an increase in tourist arrivals; last month, about 100,000 tourists entered the country. The Maldives, which is mostly promoted as a luxury tourism destination, has welcomed about 150,000 tourists every month as of late.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka maintain a close relationship. There is a large population of Sri Lankans working in the Maldives, including the tourism sector, and there is a considerable Maldivian population that emigrated to Sri Lanka.