Sancharaka Udawa tourism trade fair to be held in May

The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) announced the annual Sancharaka Udawa tourism product trade fair, which will bring to the forefront many unidentified small and medium service providers by creating a platform to showcase their services as well as build links with the tourism industry.

From left: Arundika Fernando – Deputy Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, Sarath Amunugama – Minister of Special Assignments, John Amaratunga – Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Devindre Senaratne – President, Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour operators cutting the ribbonA brainchild of Nilmini Nanayakkara, Managing Director of NKAR Travels (Pvt) Ltd.; then President of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the founder of Sancharaka Udawa, the trade fair had a huge impact on developing tourism when it was first initiated by him in the year 2011.

Sancharaka Udawa will be held once again on 5th and 6th of May at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre (BMICH).

Nilmin Nanayakkara said, “The Sancharaka Udawa tourism product trade fair to be held in 2017 is expected to provide a forum for small and relatively unknown suppliers and producers, while creating a cascading effect of revenue generation to all levels of society in Sri Lanka. It will not only be limited to showcasing sources of accommodation, but will also cover new and varied locations to visit, transportation facilities, foreign language speaking guides, wild life parks, rain forests etc.

“This event is aligned to SLAITO’S mandate to ‘promote and foster the rapid and long term growth of tourism by providing and maintaining a high standard of excellence’ to foster the long term growth of tourism. The Sancharakaudawa Tourism product trade fair will benefit the smaller organizations and businesses which depend on tourism but need support from an institution like SLAITO. We are confident this will boost their business prospects and benefit the long term sustainability of Sri Lanka Tourism as well.”

As the apex body for in-bound tourism and established to promote and foster the rapid and long term growth of tourism in Sri Lanka by providing and maintaining a high standard of excellence in the services provided for the comfort and convenience of the tourist in all aspects, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) has identified a need to revive the fair to have a beneficial impact on tourism and tourism operators.

Source : http://epaper.dailymirror.lk/epaper/viewer.aspx

Tick off 2017 travel goals at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa

38Guests of Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa can take the opportunity to fulfil their travel goals for 2017 through a series of adventure tours and experiences. Including several bucket-list experiences within Sri Lanka’s rugged southern coast, the island’s region-to-watch, it’s an ideal base from which to explore. Influenced by the importance of meaningful travel experiences as an integral component for today’s luxury traveller, Shangri-La has carefully curated this selection of tours with their guest in mind.

Located on the ancient Spice Route, hugging the Indian Ocean coastline, the hotel is perfectly positioned to offer unrivalled access to some of the country’s finest nature and wildlife reserves; Yala, Bundala and Udawalawe National Parks; the surfers’ paradise at Arugam Bay and whale-watching in Mirissa. The hotel is also home to a unique Artisan Village which, in the absence of local retail, allows guests to familiarise themselves with the work of some of the region’s most innovative and talented artists and craftsmen, through a one-of-a-kind cultural platform.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park, a regular fixture on travel bucket lists, combines a strict nature reserve with a national park and is home to the elusive Sri Lankan leopard. Divided into five blocks (two of which are open to the public), the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land.

Situated in Sri Lanka’s south-east coast, Yala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and a national park in 1938. Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. The best time to visit Yala is between February and July when the water levels of the park are quite low, bringing animals into the open.

Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park is a magnificent maze of waterways, lagoons and dunes which glitter in the evening sun. It is home to thousands of colourful birds, including the famed greater flamingo, and shelters almost 200 species within 62 square kilometres.

Bundala National Park has a small, but very visible population of elephants and crocodiles. It lays across 20km across the Southern coast, between Kirinda and Hambantota.

Udawalawe National Park

The main attraction of the National Park of Udawalawe is the high probability for traveller’s tospot and come within close proximity to Sri Lankan elephants during a safari tour. It is also home to the Sri Lankan leopard, and various endemic bird species.

Udawalawe National Park was designated and established as the fifth national park of Sri Lanka on the 30 June, 1972. The water reservoir encompasses a total surface area of nearly 3,500 hectares and is the largest in the vicinity. The total area of the park is almost 31,000 hectares, making Udawalawe National Park one of the most expansive parks on the island.

Arugam Bay

Keen surfers flock to easy-going Arugam Bay for good reason; the moon-shaped curl of beach is home to a legendary point break, which many regard as the best surf spot in the country. With a population of only a few hundred, all attractions are easily accessible along a single road which shadows the coastline.

Mirissa

A stable fixture on global bucket lists, whale watching is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The season starts in November and ends in April, when the Indian Ocean is warm and calm.

Mirissa is well-regarded in Sri Lanka, as the clearest point for whale and dolphin watching tours around the island. Often spotted are Blue whales, Bryde’s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, sometimes Killer whales, and Common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Spinner dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and striped dolphins.

Kadamandiya

Kadamandiya, otherwise known as ‘The Village’ is a cultural platform located within Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa, which is dedicated to supporting and preserving Sri Lanka’s unique artisan communities. The Village provides a platform for some of the most talented sculptors, weavers, silversmiths and performing artists to showcase their work to a wider audience, and allows for guests to have the inside track into a region with untapped, exciting creative talent.

Shangri-La’s Golf & Country Club

Shangri-La’s premier 18-hole golf course is the only one of its kind in the country. Set amid a vast coconut palm plantation, it offers spectacular views and distinctive challenges for both casual and seasoned players.

The beautifully landscaped par-70 course, designed by Rodney Wright, takes you on a memorable golf experience through three landscaped zones, each with its own unique character.

Cool zone

For younger thrill-seekers wishing to continue their adventure quest, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa offers a Cool Zone with a wide range of exhilarating experiences to satisfy any high-energy explorer. With highlights including a 7m-high trapeze, a drone-flying area and an outdoor water park, budding adventure travellers will be in their element both at ‘home’, and away from the trails.

Set beside the Indian Ocean and framed by swaying king coconut trees, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa is located on Sri Lanka’s ancient Spice Route, along the island’s lush, unspoiled Southern coastline. With 145 acres of tropical gardens, there is ample space at this striking new property for guests to unwind within the spectacular surroundings, and make the most of the impressive facilities.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts currently owns and/or manages 98 hotels under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of over 40,000.  Shangri-La hotels are five-star deluxe properties featuring extensive luxury facilities and services, and are located in Australia, Canada, mainland China, Fiji, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Sultanate of Oman, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.  The group has a substantial development pipeline with upcoming projects in mainland China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/592276/Tick-off-2017-travel-goals-at-Shangri-La-s-Hambantota-Resort—Spa#sthash.lghm0m3t.dpuf

EDB and MTQUA merge minds in drive towards medical tourism

44Synergy of Western and indigenous medicine suggested as edge over the rest

By Fathima Riznaz Hafi

Export Development Board (EDB) has sought the assistance of US-based Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA) to bring Sri Lanka forward in the area of medical tourism. Under the invitation of EDB, representatives from MTQUA arrived in the country recently to share valuable insights and guide interested parties to carry out the operation.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘International Quality Standards for Health Tourism’ held on 7 December, EDB Director General Jeevani Siriwardena said: “In most countries service exports have a greater role in the GDP but in developing countries it is still the goods that account for the greater share. It is very important that we increase our share of services in the GDP. The Charter given to the Sri Lanka export community is to get a $ 20 billion turnover both in goods and services by 2020. EDB as the national export promotion agency is now focussing more towards the promotion of export of services. In this regard providing the knowledge to increase the export earnings from the service sectors such as tourism and in this context the knowledge created to get the tourism sector for medical tourism developed is one of our key priorities.”

“A few hospitals in Sri Lanka are already accredited to international standards but there are far more numbers not accredited or don’t even have basic standard; whereas when goods are concerned the majority of export companies do have certain certifications like ISO. For services we have yet to develop it and the fact that we have these two resource persons from the medical industry is a great asset to us to get to know more about how Sri Lankan companies can comply with the certifications that are required because unless Sri Lankan companies have these certificates the international community (buyers) have the fear of travelling to Sri Lanka or taking the service from us. The international recognised certificates will give them the confidence and they will be happy to then get our services,” she said.

What MTQUA does

MTQUA is an independent international organisation, focussed specifically on the patient who travels for healthcare or wellness care. It focuses on what the patient needs, in terms of the quality of the services and the support of the treatment that they get. It works with everybody at the value chain of medical tourism; that is; everybody who touches the medical traveller.

The MTQUA representatives who arrived in Sri Lanka hope to better educate interested parties on the necessary steps to be taken in order to jump on the bandwagon. MTQUA President Julie Munro is a frequent speaker at medical tourism and healthcare conferences. She works with leading hospitals in Europe, North America and Asia, in international patient management and therefore has practical knowledge of healthcare operators in developing and post-conflict countries.

Stressing that medical tourists are not ordinary patients Munro said, “When somebody travels away from their home and is put into a strange environment they face a lot more difficulties, stressful issues and problems than they would have if they sought treatment at home because they are in a foreign country. MTQUA’s mission is focussed on the patient, working with all the providers and suppliers to make sure that patient gets the best possible outcomes.”

MTQUA also has a ‘medical travel alert’, whereby it advises against travel to certain countries for treatment or that certain precautionary measures be taken on arrival. It has a set of best practices and also a list that is published every year, of the world’s top 10 best hospitals for medical tourists. It also provides education and training and now has the certification for medical tourism. MTQUA is presently in more than 20 countries around the globe.

Health tourism, medical tourism and wellness tourism

  • Munro noted that these terms tend to be used in many different ways and there needs to be a common understanding:
  • Health tourism in general is the whole gamut of any kind of health or wellness travel-related activities. It includes wellness, spirituality and eco tourism.
  • Wellness tourism is very specifically travel for the purpose of maintaining one’s health or well-being. “The difference between a wellness tourist and a tourist who walks into a spa is the wellness tourist has gone to a place with a specific purpose of obtaining some kind of wellness experience; it’s not the same as the casual tourist who gets off a cruise ship and decides to have a massage or his teeth whitened,” said Munro.
  • “That is an indicator when we consider our marketing – when you know that people are looking for something, you market it to them in a different way than you would to a regular tourist,” she added.  
  • Medical tourism is specifically related to obtaining medical diagnosis, treatment and care. At this point she brought up the possibility of the inclusion of Ayurveda as there are people who prefer to use non-invasive and traditional forms of medicine. “Maybe Ayurveda should be considered in medical travel; however there is a question: Is it ‘medical travel’ or ‘wellness travel’? For now, it is not considered medical tourism because it is non-invasive; with medical tourism there are invasive procedures involved, such as cutting open the skin, injections, anaesthesiologists and complications,” she said.

Ayurveda and wellness tourism 

Wellness tourism is a $ 680 billion industry globally and is growing by 50% a year compared to other sectors of the tourism industry. At present out of every $ 7, a dollar is spent on activities related to wellness travelling. “When we look at the entire global wellness economy where we include wellness tourism, thermal springs, hot springs and the spa industry, we tend to forget there are so many aspects and that we have to include – the personalised medicine, nutrition, beauty and ageing and complementary medicine – all of this is now considered part of the wellness economy,” said Munro, adding that wellness economy is growing by leaps and bounds, now reaching over $ 3.4 trillion world-wide.

Expressing interest in including Ayurveda as part of wellness tourism she said, “We visited the Ayurveda Hospital and had a very interesting meeting with several of the doctors and staff there and also visited some centres and now have a better understanding and appreciation of Ayurveda as a traditional form of medicine and I think I’ll be looking at it a little more differently and in a more educated way in the future.” She suggested the scope for the inclusion of Ayurveda be strongly considered in the industry.

An edge over the rest

Munro spoke of location-specific treatment whereby people choose a particular country or area for the more authentic experience specific to the location.

“Traditional medicine provided by African tribes would only be available in that area and the same goes for Indian, Chinese and other forms of traditional medicine. Similarly Sri Lanka has an edge over the rest because of its traditional Ayurvedic treatment. It is a system that is not practised in the Western world and therefore has something authentic and highly beneficial to offer,” she said.

“The integration of Ayurveda and Western medicine would pose tremendous benefit to the patient as well as to the development and growth of this industry!”

Data accuracy

Accompanying Munro was MTQUA Senior Advisor Finance and Governance Janet Geddes who is a senior consultant with extensive international experience in healthcare, banking, insurance and hotel hospitality and real estate in UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Her work includes restructuring data on healthcare facilities in Thailand, cosmetic surgery clinics and spa centres in Asia and Europe.

Speaking on the accumulation of data on medical travellers entering a country, Geddes warned that the information could be highly misleading and generalised and therefore advised that we refrain from relying too much on statistics.

Referring to the methods of data collection in Thailand where she resides, she said: “I have lived in Thailand for 18 years; I’m a permanent resident. When I go to the hospital they still class me as a medical tourist; I am not a tourist! I live there – it’s my home but because I’m not a Thai national I tick the box for tourist. I go to the hospital from time to time and over 90% of the foreigners that I see there are resident in Thailand – they are not tourists,” she said stressing that the figures we get on medical tourism are therefore highly suspect.

Sri Lanka as a global health tourism destination

EDB Export Promotion Officer Vajira Kularathna referring to Sri Lanka’s prospects as a health tourism destination said the country has various strengths, making it an ideal location but it also has a number of weaknesses that need to be addressed and corrected in order to be successful in the market:

  • Strengths

The country’s key strength in terms of health tourism is its well-developed medical system with internationally accredited hospitals boasting modern infrastructure facilities and modern Western medical services. Additional factors are the availability of indigenous medical services which include luxury Ayurveda resorts and hospitals, as well as alternative medicine such as Unani, Siddha and acupuncture. The healthcare providers consist of medical professionals, internationally recognised doctors, more than 5,000 registered indigenous medical practitioners and English speaking professional staff.

The fact that Sri Lanka is already a popular tourist destination which is renowned for its cultural and religious values and ancient sites along with the availability of a variety of tourism activities such as wildlife safaris, adventure, spiritual experiences and relaxation, reinforces its strength as a health tourism destination because this recognition could be a supporting factor in attracting medical tourists, Kularathna said.

In order to rise above our competition we need to present both a strong healthcare system as well as a hospitable country. She spoke of supporting facilities which include up-coming city hotels and apartments by global players, highways, airport and aviation services, shopping complexes, Wi-Fi hotspots and restaurants. Cost effectiveness when compared to other health service providers is another important factor contributing to its strength, she said.

  • Weaknesses

Among Sri Lanka’s weaknesses are the lack of elements such as international promotions as a medical tourism destination, focused strategy, recognition from international insurance companies, supporting services such as airport pick-up and accommodation, awareness about Sri Lankan capabilities in health/medical services in Sri Lankan consultants abroad, and accommodation dedicated to family and friends of patients. There is also a limited number of resident doctors in hospitals and an inadequacy of trained staff (nurses, paramedical).

Synergising strengths 

As a productive step forward, Kularathna spoke of synergising Sri Lankan Ayurveda and Western medicine in efforts to offer a more attractive package to medical tourists.“This would place it as a desirable destination for global health tourism. Another step would be that tourism activities be packaged for a medical traveller; also we could raise the awareness of tour operators, airport staff, hospitality industry and expatriates; and prioritise the capability for branding, raising awareness on the specialisations we offer (cardiac, kidney transplant, fertility, etc.),” she said.

Interested parties can promote their service by registering on the EDB professional services web portal: http://www.srilankaservicexport.com, where they can post their news and upcoming events.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/591994/EDB-and-MTQUA-merge-minds-in-drive-towards-medical-tourism#sthash.2VPUhVeg.dpuf

S&T successfully completes fit-out of Mövenpick Hotel, Colombo

6 Proud to partner with Sri Lanka’s first 5-star hotel in 25 years

S&T Interiors announced that it has successfully completed the turnkey interior project for the Mövenpick Hotel, Colombo. S&T Interiors is a subsidiary of S&T Interiors and Contracting, a global leading turnkey contracting company with operations in 10 countries across Europe, Middle East and Asia.

S&T has left an indelible mark of creating high-class interior finishes by blending international expertise with local craftsmanship. The scope of works included turnkey interior fit-outs  for Mövenpick’s 218 guest rooms including the presidential suite and public areas comprising of three restaurants, seven lounges/ bars, roof top, gym and spa and banquet areas.

Launch of the Mövenpick Hotel is a historic moment in hospitality sector in the country as it is the first five star international brand to be built in the last 25 years in Sri Lanka. Mövenpick Hotel is Softlogic’s first ever city hotel in Sri Lanka and S&T was exclusively awarded the interiors contract for the project. Mövenpick Hotel is S&T’s debut project in Colombo.

K. S. Ravikumar, Executive Director – International Operations at S&T Interiors and Contracting, said: “We are pleased to announce the successful completion of Sri Lanka’s international five star hotel Mövenpick which heralds a new era for hospitality in the country. We are privileged to have been part of this project delivering it to world-class standards. This project is a vital addition to our global portfolio.”

“This was a great collaborative effort by a truly international team and a fruitful partnership with the Hayleys Group.  The project has set new benchmarks for interior finishes in the industry,” commented Ravikumar.

Johann Wijesinghe, Hayleys Group Management Committee/ Director, S&T Interiors, said, “We are proud to have partnered with S&T and successfully completed this project. S&T brings international capabilities to the interior fit-out industry in Sri Lanka that caters to high standards hotel developers seek while working with international brands.”

S&T Interiors is the company formed under a joint venture agreement with S&T and the Hayleys Group, for offering a complete range of interior fit-out contracting services for the Sri Lankan market. S&T has managed over 150 global projects in the hospitality sector and high-end residential and commercial projects. Langham Hotel, London; Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman; Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Abu Dhabi; Dubai International Airport Project Concourse 3; and the St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, London are among some of the prestigious projects of S&T.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/592073/S-T-successfully-completes-fit-out-of-M%C3%B6venpick-Hotel–Colombo#sthash.3Mbsl8F7.dpuf

US$ 30 mn Jie Jie Beach hotel Panadura opens on Monday

 The Jie Jie Beach hotel, Panadura.

Sri Lanka’s first purpose built Chinese five star hotel, Jie Jie Beach will open on Monday in Panadura. This is also Sri Lanka’s first solar powered hotel and also constructed by Chinese engineers.

A joint venture between China’s J. J. Construction and White Heaven Hotels, Panadura the project is a US$ 30 million investment.J. J. Construction in China is an international construction companybuilding many skyscrapers and they were also involved in the building of the Beijing Olympic Stadium.

Chairman, J. J. Construction, J. J. Lee told Daily News Business that this is their first overseas venture. “In addition this is the first time our company has diversified to the leisure sector.”

He said that their company was keen to invest in Sri Lanka and with this intention he visited Sri Lanka where he met White Heaven Hotel Panadura Chairman Sunil Silva who convinced him to invest.

He said that they are upbeat of the Sri Lankan tourism sector and is planning to build three more hotels. “One would be a 200 room city hotel, and two other 250 room hotels in Galle and Kandy.”

“Modern building techniques by our construction team were used to build the hotel and this is the reason we are completing the project in less than eighteen months.”

White Heaven Hotel Panadura Chairman Sunil Silva said the hotel will offer employment to over 200 and will be managed by Jetwing.

Sri Lanka tourism promotion in Malaysia

28Sri Lanka Tourism, in collaboration with the Sri Lankan High Commission in Malaysia, gave its full support to promote Sri Lanka as an important tourist destination enriched with natural resources, and to make a positive impact among the Malaysian community of the positive benefits they will get by visiting Sri Lanka. In order to make this attempt successful, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau held a Consumer Promotion from 13 to 19 December 2016, at the Suraya KLCC in Malaysia.

The Sri Lankan stall was declared open on the 13th under the patronage of Sri Lanka High Commissioner in Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Paddy Withana. President Maithripala Sirisena visited the stall on the 17th.

10 Sri Lankan travel agents participated and more than 400 consumers visited the stall per day. The event focused on consumer promotion, to implement new promotional activities and address the target groups of the Malaysian market, such as the consumers, tour operators, travel agents and the retail sellers. Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau was represented by Chairman Paddy Vithana, Director Marketing Madhubani Perera and Assistant Director Marketing Chami Lanka Gasnawage.

Another event was the Tourism Consumer Promotional campaign at Berjaya Times Square on the 16th, a Food Festival, held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Malaysia. It was supported by three chefs provided through Mt. Lavinia Hotel, including veteran chef Pabilis Silva. At the same time a business forum was also held to encourage the Malaysian stake holders to make use of their investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

The promotional campaign at Suraya KLCC in Malaysia, and the business forum were held from 15-18th. Prasadi dance group from Sri Lanka added more glamour to the Tourism Consumer Promotional event with colourful splendour. The events were held in parallel to President Maithripala Sirisena’s official visit to Malaysia, upon the invitation of the Malaysian Government. The official visit took place from 15-18 December 2016.

Media interviews were also held with the SLTPB Chairman Paddy Vithana, during the period including live radio interviews on Bernama Channel, Traxx FM and an interview with Utusan.24

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/591139/Sri-Lanka-tourism-promotion-in-Malaysia#sthash.bsGxZW9v.dpuf

Gulf Air counts down to launch of Colombo route

29Airline to operate to Colombo effective 19 January

On 5 January, The Kingdom of Bahrain’s National Carrier, Gulf Air, began its official 14-day countdown to the highly anticipated launch of the airline’s direct operations to Bandaranaike International Airport, in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, which will commence on 19 January with five flights per week.

In advance of the route launch Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer Maher Salman Al Musallam praised the fruitful partnership and cooperation between Gulf Air and its General Sales Agent Mack Air in Colombo and spoke of the newest network expansion.

“We are 14 days away from the launch of Gulf Air’s newest route services that will further strengthen our Asian network while extending our product and service offering to a broader passenger base. We are delighted to provide superior travel solutions that, supplemented by the support of our General Sales Agent Mack Air, will cater to the travel needs of our passengers.”

Gulf Air’s General Sales Agent in Colombo, Mack Air, can be found in No 11, York Street, Colombo 01, SriLanka and can be reached at (+94) 11 2475325.

Gulf Air will operate five weekly flights to Colombo with an A320 aircraft.

Gulf Air flights can be booked online at gulfair.com, the airline’s one-stop-shop website, where customers can also find a suite of additional online services offering hotel bookings, car rental, travel insurance and the Gulf Air Tours service that gives passengers access to a variety of travel add-ons such as sightseeing tours, museum passes, tours, excursions, local activities and airport transfers at their final destination. Fare/booking queries can also be directed to the airline’s 24-hour Worldwide Contact Centre on (+973) 17373737, or any Gulf Air sales offices and approved travel agencies.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/591144/Gulf-Air-counts-down-to-launch-of-Colombo-route#sthash.GqCP2nS7.dpuf