Bathing in cozy afternoon sunshine, a few foreign tourists sat leisurely beside the swimming pool of Serendib Leisure Hotel in Bentota, a tourist resort once badly damaged during last year's killer tsunami.
Located some 60 km south of Sri Lankan capital Colombo, Bentota suffered major losses during the massive tidal waves that struck a dozen Indian Ocean nations on Dec. 26, 2004, with three big hotels on the beach fully destroyed and 12 small ones damaged to various degrees.
A three-star hotel with 90 rooms available, Serendib leisure Hotel, however, has seen flourishing business recently, like other guesthouses in the area.
Twenty-five year old receptionist Drasanna said the hotel reopened at the first week of March this year after nearly two months of repairing and refurnishing project.
"There is only 20 percent occupancy at the beginning of two months, then around 30 percent for two months, and now near 60 percent," he said.
However, "compared with December last year before tsunami, the occupancy decreased by 20 percent, a big drop," he added.
The hotel's front office executive Thamara recalled a miserable scene of wrecked boats, palm-thatched deck houses, no power, no food or drinking water after tsunami one year ago.
Asked about the reasons for low occupancy, she said, "Most guests were asking for upstairs rooms for fear of tsunami coming again, and some clients may not know that the hotel is fully repaired."
"People may still be afraid to come now because of tsunami," said the executive with a bitter grimace on face.
However, she said Sri Lankan government and some private companies have been promoting the country's tourism through foreign travel agents and international meetings after the disaster.
"Tourists will come back and the occupancy in our hotel will go up," she said with confident tune.
Outside on the "Golden Beach," famed for its shiny sand beach, Ursula Seicer, a German tourist, said she has been here 14 times and twice after tsunami.
"I am not afraid of coming here and it (tsunami) will not happen again in a short time. There has been no major disaster for around 2,000 years in the nation and the beach view is so lovely," she added.
To cope with the unprecedented challenges, the government has floated a tourism revival program called "Bounce back Sri Lanka," an aggressive campaign at a cost of 320 million US dollars.
It combined international marketings and promotion of the unique tourism attractions unaffected by the tsunami with a rehabilitation and reconstruction program designed to fast-track the development of world-class tourism facilities in damaged popular beachside areas.
A few financial organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, have also provided new loans to affected tourist businesses, including small and medium-sized ones, to boost their early revival.
The government's tourism board has also worked with travel agencies abroad to promote the tourism industry, holding "WOMAD Sri Lanka 2005 -- Festival of Drums" and "Sri Lanka Spice Festival " this year as parts of its revival programs to get more and new guests to the country.
According to official figures, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka form January to October 2005 reached 449,680, an increase of 3.4 percent from the same period last year.
"Hope we will be able to welcome more guests soon," said receptionist Drasanna, putting his hands together before his chest.