Sri Lankan attacks will set back tourism to the country

Tourism operators are bracing for the fall out after the Sri Lankan attacks as they approach the peak Northern Hemisphere summer travel season.

The country has enjoyed a decade of relative calm after a long history of violence and unrest.

Now there are calls for tourists to embrace Sri Lanka, so any impact on the industry is short-lived. 

It's an island paradise known for its natural beauty. More than two million tourists explore Sri Lanka each year

And this year it claimed the ultimate tourism crown - dubbed Lonely Planet's top country for travel.

But its popularity has been hard won.

For three decades the country was plagued by war, and a feeling of danger.

"International tourists did not want to travel to Sri Lanka for good reason during that period, but in 2009 after we finished the war, tourism was booming and businesses were growing," said tourist operator Krishan Gallage.

Gallage runs tours to Sri Lanka from New Zealand, and says this attack marks a violent end to what has been a decade of peace.

"Till yesterday, I didn't have any hesitation to travel into Sri Lanka in terms of safety, but unfortunately this incident has now happened,"

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is advising New Zealanders visiting Sri Lanka to exercise a high degree of personal security awareness at all times, to be alert during religious festivals, and to avoid large public gatherings.

While the Sri Lankan community is asking Kiwis to support their country by planning a holiday, saying the country depends on tourism.

"When the Christchurch incident happened, I decided my next destination would be Christchurch, that is how we should support the people who are in this type of situation," said Gallage.

New Zealanders are all too aware that an attack like this does not define the place, or the people that it hits.