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Recalling Thomas Cook’s Role in Ceylon’s Fledgling Tourism Industry

With the demise of Thomas Cook, Dr R. P. Fernando reminisces on the distinct charm of Sri Lanka when it was a relatively undiscovered travel destination, and Thomas Cook’s role in launching and developing the Tourism industry here. As published in the Sunday Times.

Sunday October 6th 2019

The demise of the UK travel company Thomas Cook should be greeted in Sri Lanka with sadness. The firm played an important role in launching the Sri Lankan tourist industry. Its 1929 guide gave the following description of the island:

‘Ceylon – the Pearl of the Orient – is unsurpassed for the beauty and range of its landscape, scenery and for its climate. Situated some four hundred miles north of the equator, the climate in the southern and lowland area is warm, but not uncomfortably so, for its warmth is tempered by a genial breeze. Further inland the land rises in a series of mountain ranges which have a climate similar to that of the autumn season in England. From these the landscapes are magnificent. Midway between these two areas is the ancient capital, Kandy, a beautiful town full of historic interest.

‘In Colombo, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in the Hill country are first-class hotels providing accommodation for visitors at moderate rates. Ceylon is very rapidly becoming, not merely a place for a hurried call by visitors, but a holiday resort. For those interested in archaeology, the ancient cites of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are unfailing sources of pleasure and study. The system of irrigation, built up by generations of Sinhalese, whose civilization is indicated in their ancient cities, surpasses anything of the kind in the world’.

Thomas Cook is no more but Sri Lanka will continue to enchant visitors for generations to come.

 

Dr R. P. Fernando, UK
Published by Sunday Times Plus, under the column ‘Letters to the Editor’.

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