COLOMBO, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka will continue to engage with China in key development sectors, particularly tourism, Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody told a delegation of Chinese officials here on Monday.
Weerakkody made the remarks at a meeting with the delegation led by Zhao Qizheng, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body.
During the meeting at the Sri Lankan parliament, the two sides reiterated their readiness to continue cooperation and outlined upcoming exchanges.
Zhao invited Weerakkody to visit China's Shanghai with a delegation of engineers to study the development of the booming Chinese metropolis for the growth of the southern Sri Lankan city of Galle.
Zhao also called on Sri Lankan authorities to increase awareness of the island country's tourist attractions by undertaking more publicity campaigns in China, noting that nearly a million tourists will visit Maldives this year but Sri Lanka, despite its closeness to the Maldives, still attracts less Chinese visitors.
"Sri Lanka also needs to let the Chinese people know the end of its civil war, the current peaceful atmosphere and the rapid development taking place here in Sri Lanka," said Zhao, calling for actions to train more Chinese speaking guides so that tourists from China will "find it easier to travel to Sri Lanka."
MP Thilanga Sumathipala agreed that more steps need to be taken to increase the usage of Chinese among tourism professionals, saying that a long-term plan must be put in place to attract English-speaking Chinese people.
"China is funding a second international airport in Sri Lanka, which will be put into operation soon and can be used to increase flights with China. At the moment we have about ten flights a week to India but the numbers to China are less," he said, adding that this could be one reason for the small figure of Chinese tourists.
"Trade between Sri Lanka and China can also be improved. As Sri Lanka looks to fast track its development, it needs investment from Chinese companies that can also bring their expertise and knowledge to us," said Sumathipala.
Both sides agreed to continue engagement with frequent visits. The Sri Lankan MPs expressed their gratitude to China for its support in protecting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka in various international fora including the United Nations as well as the assistance given during the time of the war, which ended in 2009.
Weerakkody said that the recent tour of China's top legislator Wu Bangguo to Sri Lanka was a "great honor" to this island country as it was a symbol of the warm relations enjoyed by the two countries.
In a meeting earlier, Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake briefed the Chinese delegation about the functions carried out by the Sri Lankan parliament.