Sri Lanka expects to pull in nearly 50% more tourists this year, a minister said on Wednesday, as the tropical island nation, famous for its ancient temples and golden beaches, pins its hopes on tourism to emerge from a long financial crisis.

Tourist arrivals increased to 1.48 million last year, an increase of 106% from 2022, government data shows. The highest arrivals were from India, Russia and Britain.

It is aiming for 2.2 million tourists this year.

Sri Lanka is also targeting $4 billion in tourism revenue, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said, almost doubling the $2.1 billion earned last year, and will target travellers from Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Sri Lanka, also famous for its lush hillside tea plantations, will launch a global campaign later this year, after a lapse of about 15 years, to attract tourists, the minister added.

"In January there have been about 200,000 arrivals so Sri Lanka has immense potential. We are a top ten destination on every travel index," Fernando told reporters.

"Our target is to reach 4 million tourists by 2030."

The country of 22 million people, racked by civil war with Tamil separatists between 1983 and 2009, has been struggling to emerge from a severe financial crisis caused by a foreign exchange crunch in 2022.

Sri Lanka's economy is estimated to have contracted 3.8% in 2023 by the World Bank but is expected to grow by 1.7% this year.

Tourism is Sri Lanka's second-highest foreign exchange earner after workers' remittances from abroad, making it crucial to its economic recovery, Fernando said.

(Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by Nick Macfie)