A couple were unexpectedly greeted with flowers and dancers as they landed for a holiday in Sri Lanka to mark the 1,000,000th tourist visit to the country this year.

Sophie Nathan, 23, of Beech Lane, in Buckhurst Hill, and her boyfriend, Josh Gladstein, 24, from Romford, were surprised on their arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport on Thursday.

Miss Nathan, who works at Haven House Children’s Hospice in High Road, Woodford Green, and is in Sri Lanka for nearly two weeks, said the couple were overwhelmed by the greeting organised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau.

She said: “We wanted to come here because it is a completely different culture to what we have in London and we wanted to try something new.

“It is such a shock to receive all of this, we are both overwhelmed and quite tired, but we want to thank everyone.”

Mr Gladstein said: “It is fantastic, it is like a hero’s welcome and it is great to be here in Sri Lanka.”

The couple also received upgrades in their hotel package and flight home, also with a promise of a free holiday in the future to the country.

The tourism bureau is raising publicity as it hopes to reach its target of 1.5 million tourists by the end of 2014.

Judy Nathan, 51, mother of Miss Nathan, was amazed when her daughter told her what had happened.

She said: “It was a complete shock and I couldn’t believe it.

“I was waiting for Sophie to get in touch saying she had landed and she sent me a voicetag on whatsapp saying she had had an amazing few hours.

“Then she sent me all the links for articles about it, it was exciting, definitely not something I was expecting would happen on their arrival.

“She wanted to go somewhere a bit different for a holiday so Sri Lanka was perfect, it is good to get out of London, but who would have known this would happen.”