Sri Lanka’s tourist board has declared the country “open for business” following the bomb attacks that killed at least 359 people.

Eight Britons were among the victims confirmed dead in the Easter Sunday blasts at churches and hotels which left a further 500 wounded.

In the immediate aftermath, the government declared a state of emergency on Monday as well as a curfew and social media shutdown.

Emergency response teams were deployed at hospitals, affected hotels – which included the The Kingsbury, Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand – and the airport to assist tourists with hotel transfers, airline bookings, airport transfers, itinerary changes, hospital treatment and contacting loved ones.

It emerged today that a fourth hotel – the five-star Taj Samudra – was also targeted but the bomber’s suicide vest failed to detonate.

UK operators with tours in the country reported no direct casualties as a result of the blasts, and urged the industry to get behind Sri Lanka and support continued tourism to the country.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office chose not to advise against travel to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Tourism finally issued a statement yesterday, which said: “Sri Lanka Tourism would like to reassure the world that the country is open for business and all possible measures have been taken to ensure the safety and security of tourists.

“Our world famous tourism sites, hotels, resorts and other tourist attractions will remain open as usual. There are no road closures or restrictions on movement anywhere in the island.”

It continued: “Sri Lanka is a proudly diverse nation which celebrates its multicultural nature. Since the end of the war a decade ago, Sri Lanka has enjoyed absolute peace and it will do everything within its power to maintain the peace that every Sri Lankan cherishes and rebuild what has been destroyed with renewed vigour. There is no place for terrorism of any kind in Sri Lanka and whoever that is responsible for the Easter Sunday violence will be hunted down and punished in the strongest possible manner.

“Sri Lanka Tourism looks forward to warmly welcome all those who have planned trips to the country in the days, weeks and months ahead. Sri Lanka Tourism is deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless violence and unreservedly condemns these dastardly acts. We offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to all the victims and their families, while wishing a speedy recovery to all those injured and currently receiving treatment.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government in Sri Lanka had initially accused local jihadist group National Thowheed Jamath. So far, 24 arrests have been made.

The country was due to mark ten years since the defeat of the separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the end of next month. Civil war between government armed forces and the militant group lasted 25 years and ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka was named by Lonely Planet in October as the best country in the world to visit in 2019.

Tourist numbers hit a record of more than two million last year. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority had hoped to see the level double by 2020.

tw5