First leg of 10th ‘Lanka Challenge’ edition kicks off tomorrow

  • 20 teams from 13 nationalities rev up tuks for ultimate road trip challenge
  • Following popularity of event, second leg scheduled for September

By Charumini de Silva

The 10th edition of ‘Lanka Challenge’, the ultimate road trip for intrepid travellers from around the world who like their tourism experience fully charged and no-holds-barred, will kick-off the first leg tomorrow (21) from Tamarind Tree in Minuwangoda.

The self-driven tuk-tuk challenge is organised for the 10th consecutive time by Large Minority in partnership with Connaissance de Ceylan and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB). The challenge has 20 teams registered for the 2018 first edition comprising of 45 international participants representing 13 nationalities.

Following the popularity of the challenge, the organisers are have now scheduled two events for a year and the second event will take place in September. National carrier SriLankan Airlines is the main sponsor of the event alongside the official travel partner, Connaissance de Ceylon.

The nine-day adventure tour of Sri Lanka using one of the favourite and funkiest mode of local transportation — tuk-tuks will allow travellers from around the world to explore and experience country’s culture, wild life, heritage and gastronomic adventures.

During the April challenge participants will explore Kalpitiya, Mannar, Jaffna, East Coast, Sigiriya and Kandy. The ultimate road trip will come to a close on 28 April at Suriya Resort in Wayikkal.  The tourists will drive themselves to various challenges at these locations on the colourful Tuk Tuks that have been borrowed from local drivers for the duration of this tour.

“The popularity of the challenge has been growing since its inception eight years ago thus, we have scheduled two events from this year,” Connaissance de Ceylan General Manager Anushka Perera told Daily FT.

He also said ‘Lanka Challenge’ event sends out an important message to the world that Sri Lanka is a safe destination for travellers.

It was pointed out that the challenge was not a race and clarified that participants were not timed on how fast they could complete a challenge, giving them the freedom and opportunity to enjoy the natural and historical sites of the island as well.

In addition Perera said it helped to filter down the benefits to local communities and industries involved in this endeavour. The Lanka Challenge also embraces a policy of responsible tourism where a total of 10% of each team’s entry fee would be given directly to support local charity partners.

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Miss Premier Ceylon together with Miss England to promote SL as socioeconomic and tourism hub

By Shannon Jayawardena

Premier Ceylon together with Miss England will be hosting Sri Lanka’s largest beauty pageant with the aim of promoting the country as a socioeconomic and tourism hub. The event is to take place on 26 May at Amari Galle.

Premier Ceylon Hotels and Hospitality Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Jagath Wijesekara said: “Premier Ceylon ventured into high end hospitality and is based in the United States of America. Premier Ceylon has partnered with Miss England is an initiative to promote Sri Lanka as a promised socioeconomic and tourism hub.”

Wijesekara stressed on the fact that this exclusive project had been endorsed by the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau in recognition of the national interest so that the country is promoted both locally and internationally.

Ozo Colombo and Amari Galle Area General Manager Russell Cool stated: “Amari Galle and the Ozo has partnered with such a grand event to promote the socioeconomic and tourism aspects of Sri Lanka. We look forward to a bright event on 26 of May and it should be a good night.”

The event will comprise two phases, phase one which will invite Miss England organisation officials to Sri Lanka to stage Miss Premier Ceylon with Miss England which is to happen for the first time in Asia and the second phase which will offer selected local beauty queens the opportunity to walk the ramp in Miss England Finals in UK.

From left: Onyx Hospitality Social Media Manager Mohammed Ashfaq, Flipit Media Director Julian Zufer, Flipit Media Director Shamaal Panagoda, Rupavahini Working Director Amal Gajamange, Tour Blue Director Dharshana Cabraal, Premier Ceylon Managing Director Selvarajah Krishanakumar, Premier Ceylon Vice President/Chief Executive Officer Jagath Wijesekara, Premier Ceylon President Ruwan Padmawansa, Onyx Hospitality Area General Manager Russell Cool, Onyx Hospitality Sales & Marketing Director Kiran Sonawane, Scissors Salons Chairman Mohammed Afthab, Nkar Travel House Manager Nilakshi Senadeera and Nkar Travel House Executive Brian Wimalasinghe

Tour Blue Director Darshana Cabraal noted: “I would like to highlight that we are all here to promote Sri Lanka, especially within the European region. This is one of the main reasons that we are going to have this event in May at Amari Galle. We are also planning several similar events in the future that will promote the country as a tourism hub.”

Event officials said that would be the best and biggest international show in Sri Lanka with a host of several leading musical groups, dance groups and a gala black tie dinner for networking. Miss England finalists will also join hands with the contests of Miss Premier Ceylon on the ramp, experiencing cross cultural and applied professional exposure for the contestants to develop integration, personalities and their career paths.

Further the event has been scheduled during the height of the off season which will encourage tourism promotion during this period as well. The pageant will invite tourists to visit the country and experience its beauty as the contest is open to all nationalities. Tickets will be available soon.

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Sri Lanka woos Saudi tourists at Riyadh Travel Fair

Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim opens the Sri Lanka pavilion at the 10th Riyadh Travel Fair.  Sri Lanka Tourism Board Assistant Director Ajantha Bandara, Sri Lankan Airlines Central Province Manager Sathira Ariyaratne, Figo Travels Commercial Counsellor Gayan Rajapaksa and Figo Travels Managing Director RMM Khalil are also present

Riyadh: Sri Lanka is an ideal tourist destination for Saudis who wish to go on a family holiday, a visiting official from the Sri Lanka Tourism Board told a packed audience at a presentation held at the Holiday Inn Al-Qasr last week.

On the eve of the Riyadh Travel Fair held last week, the Sri Lankan Tourism Board launched a road show in the capital.

Sri Lanka Tourism Board Assistant Director Ajantha Bandara said that the number of Saudis traveling to Sri Lanka has been rising in the past, reaching a total of some 37,000 in 2016.

“This is a country where Arab visitors can enjoy Halal food, and they will feel at home due to the presence of a large number of mosques in the island, as well as islanders who will welcome the visitor with a smiling face,” he said.

The first mosque, Abrar Masjid in Beruwela, some 40 km from the capital was built by early Arabs, who visited the island as traders, he said, pointing out that that 10% of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population are Muslims.

In his brief speech, Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim said that his country is an attractive destination for both Arabs and western tourists. “We also get a large number of tourists from China and our close neighbour India,” he added. He pointed out that Saudis are given on-arrival entry visas at the Colombo airport at a nominal feels of SR 135.

Sri Lankan Airlines Central Province Manager Sathira Ariyaratne said that his airline operates 18 flights weekly from the Kingdom, including seven daily flights each from Jeddah and Riyadh and four from Dammam. “We also have convenient connections to major Indian destinations, Maldives, China and to Far-Eastern countries,” he concluded.

Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) Board Vice Chairman Hamad Ali Alshowair visits the Sri Lanka Pavilion after he opened the 10th Riyadh Travel Fair at the Prince Sultan Grand Hall at Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh

Sri Lanka received 707,924 tourists in the first three months of this year, an increase of 17.1% compared with the corresponding period last year, according to Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga.

India, China, Germany, France and the UK are the biggest tourist markets for Sri Lanka.

Quoting the latest statistics released by the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority, he said the country received 233,382 tourist arrivals in March.

Two lucky winners among the guests of the road show received seven days’ accommodation and air tickets to and from Colombo from travel agents from the island.

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Sri Lanka discusses with UNESCO on enhancing cultural and tourism cooperation with Africa

Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union, Sumith Dassanayake met with Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for Africa at the UNESCO office in Addis Ababa on 9 April.

The discussion centred on enhancing cultural and tourism cooperation between Sri Lanka and African countries. Ambassador Dassanayake discussed on the possibility of signing an Agreement on Cooperation on Tourism and Culture between Sri Lanka and the African Union under the auspices of the UNESCO.

The possibility of getting assistance from Sri Lanka for capacity building of the tourism industry in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, was also discussed among other matters.

Referring to Sri Lanka’s long standing relations with the UNESCO that date back to 1949, Ambassador Dassanayake informed Director Yokozeki that Sri Lanka has served on the Executive Board of the UNESCO on numerous occasions.

Liaison Officer to African Union Commission Malebogo Bowe and National Program Officer for Culture at UNESCO Getu Assefa were also associated with the Director at the discussion.

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Sri Lanka Tourism impacts French consumers at Paris SMT Travel Fair

Sri Lanka Tourism participated in the maiden business to consumer travel fair in the French market, Salon Mondial du Tourisme (SMT) in Paris, France, which was held at Parc des Exposition, Porte De Versailles, recently.

Enjoying Sri Lankan sweetmeats
SMT is the second largest travel show held in France annually with the participation of various tourism stakeholders from around the world. The main exhibit sectors of the trade show SMT are foreign tourism offices, tour operators, travel agencies, French national, regional and departmental tourism offices, reception, accommodation, thalassa therapy, airlines, car rental, railway, cruise lines, business tourism, new technologies, leisure, training, information and services, associations – press.

The show covers a wide scope of tourism product and service sectors with high active presence during the exhibition.

Franch Ambassador Buddhi Athauda, SMT Show Director Audrey Quentin, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Assistant Director Sarangi Thilakasena, First Secretary Commerce Chandima Abeyrathne and French Embassy Third Secretary Consular Damitha Hewawickrama officially opened the Sri Lanka stand at the SMT travel fair along with other officials and travel trade representatives participated in the exhibition.

The Sri Lanka stand witnessed the presence of French Government Secretary of State Geneviève Darrieussecq with Ministre des Armées Florence Parly visiting the Sri Lanka stand and talking highly on the potential Sri Lanka has to become a leading travel destination for the French travellers. They highly praised Sri Lanka and its attractions to offer to the avid French travellers.

Addressing the audience, Athauda remarked that the popularity of Sri Lanka among the French travellers is increasing and the number of travel inquiries the embassy has to handle on a daily basis has become almost fivefold showing the interest of French travellers for Sri Lanka.

He further added that Sri Lanka’s presence at SMT will create a highly competitive position for the destination with the presence of other popular Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Male, India, Indonesia, etc. which have been regular attendees of this travel show from the inception.

The travel show was attended by reputed Sri Lankan travel agents and hoteliers active in the French market such as Airwing Tours, Back Pool Hotels, Yathra Travels, Ayuobowan Tours, Bernard Tours, Travel Talk Asia, World Lanka Tours, Asian Escapes, Chamathka Holidays and Zenith Expeditions, etc.

The Sri Lanka stand was able to attract a very high level of enthusiasm from the show attendees being present at the show for the very first time. Sri Desi dance troupe from Paris added colour and vibrancy with traditional dance performances at the Sri Lanka stand.

Ceylon Tea Boutique served freshly brewed Ceylon Tea for the travel show participants throughout the fair. The Sri Lanka Tourism counter handled a large number of inquiries with the inflow of potential travellers ready to visit Sri Lanka in the near future.

Sri Lanka Tourism was able to gain double exposure at this travel fair with another travel show called Salon Destination Nature, which was focused on nature and eco-tourism products, taking place parallel to the SMT fair in the same venue.

The visitors attending Salon Destination Nature spilled over to the Sri Lanka stand as the country had many natural attractions to travel to and for the purpose of discovering ecotourism products and services available in the country.

Sri Lanka Tourism representatives met with leading travel media in France Le Quotidien du Tourisme, Le Figaro, Paris Match and L’echo Touristique to seek possible cooperation to promote Sri Lanka in these media in the future.

Further discussions were held with travel agents, airlines, PR agencies, tour operators, electronic media production houses, bloggers, travel guide book publishers, digital marketing companies, etc. to promote Sri Lanka in the French market.

Based on the discussions had with the ambassador on the plans for future promotional activities in the French market, the French Embassy has laid out plans to carry out a three-day consumer promotional event at the famous Champs-élysées, considered as world’s busiest shopping street. The promotional campaign will take off in the late May to early June period during this year.

More than 105,000 visitors, including 2409 professionals, 652 staff works councils, clubs or organisations, 531 journalists and 400 exhibitors participated in the 2017 edition of the show, creating opportunity to promote the destination on various consumer segments. The visitor consumer profile consists of 56 percent actively employed and 44 percent retired persons with high disposable income. More than 96 percent of visitors attending the travel fair go on a holiday as per the research.

Out of the total visitors, 42 percent have more than 3000 euros as their holiday budget and 45 percent of the visitors allocate 100-3000 euros as their household holiday budget, making the SMT travel fair one of the high-potential avenues to promote destinations to the avid French travellers.

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Aitken Spence Hotels conferred Leisure Sector Winner at Sustainability Awards

Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC was adjudged the winner in the leisure and connected services category at the recently held ACCA Sustainability Reporting Awards, joining the ranks, yet again as one of the most transparent, accountable and sustainable companies in the country.

Aitken Spence Director and Aitken Spence Hotel Management Chairperson Stasshani Jayawardena receives the award
A pioneer in the sustainable tourism movement in the region, Aitken Spence Hotels has led by example with a sustainable focus intrinsic to its business.
With a corporate model that is based on a long-term vision, clearly defining sustainability ethos and related initiatives at the very heart of its operations, Aitken Spence Hotels’ reporting conforms to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 standards which promotes the integration of socio-economic and environmental impacts on all stakeholders related to the business with new focus on matters that are critical in order to achieve the organisation’s goals and manage its impact on society.
With a diverse portfolio of 21 hotels and resorts, the group’s sustainability strategy looks at aspects that are commonly applicable across all its properties and uses a prioritization framework to allow the hotels to customise their action consistent with the nature and scale of its operations and its impacts. The group has also adapted their practices to the seven prioritised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) that the parent company, Aitken Spence PLC has identified.

“We are delighted to have been adjudged a category winner at the ACCA Sustainability Reporting Awards, which is reflective of the group’s commitment towards corporate accountability and its approach towards creating a corporate culture that promotes sustainability through internal and external stakeholders,” Aitken Spence PLC Director and Aitken Spence Hotel Management Chairperson Stasshani Jayawardena commented .

“As a country, Sri Lanka is on the brink of large-scale development and growth within the industry. While we welcome the efforts taken by the authorities to improve the standards of Sri Lanka tourism and image building in key markets, it is imperative that the industry must, as a whole, look at sustainable development and tourism in order to truly become a value-added destination. The sustainability consciousness among global leaders is growing and in order to attract premium brands, businesses and guests, we must position ourselves as a sustainable hub for all industries,” she asserted.

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Aussie arrivals increase due to SriLankan direct flights

The number of visitors to Sri Lanka from Australia and New Zealand has surged followingSriLankan Airlines’ commencement of daily direct services between Melbourne and Colombo, the latest statistics compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority show. Australia is now firmly among the top ten source markets for visitors to Sri Lanka.

SriLankan launched its services between Melbourne, one of Australia’s largest cities, and Sri Lanka’s capital in October 2017. In December SriLankan provided further convenience for travelers from most other major Australian cities by expanding its codeshare agreement with Qantas to link Melbourne with Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, and also New Zealand’s largest city Auckland.

Visitor arrivals from Australia jumped 60.2% in March 2018 and 40.6% from New Zealand in comparison with the same month last year. These growth rates are far above the 24.1% growth of total visitor arrivals to Sri Lanka from all countries during March 2018.

Growth rates for January 2018 were 16.5% from Australia and 21.8% New Zealand; while growth in February was 27.0% from Australia and 38.8% from New Zealand.

The direct flights provide a high level of convenience for all travelers, including tourists, Sri Lankan students studying in Australia, and the large community of ethnic Sri Lankans living throughout Australia and New Zealand.Passengers enjoy the comforts of the airline’s modern Airbus A330 aircraft, with flatbeds in Business Class, sophisticated in-flight entertainment and world class service provided by SriLankan’s award winning cabin crew.

SriLankan has been extending its route network throughout Asia and provides Australian travelers excellent options in connectivity, with one-stop journeys to the most popular destinations via Colombo.SriLankan also operates one-stop twice-daily services between Sri Lanka and Australia with its codeshare partners Qantas and Malaysia Airlines.

SriLankan Airlines operates a route network of 105 cities in 47 countries from its hub in Colombo, with a fleet of modern aircraft.

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