Sri Lanka holds tourism promotion event in Stockholm


The Sri Lankan Embassy in Sweden conducted a tourist outreach promotional event titled ‘A Glimpse of Sri Lanka’ on the 13 August at the Wallenbergs Torg in Stockholm, an open air venue located in the city’s centre.

This central location made it convenient for city dwellers, tourists and all passersby to spare a moment of their time on the sunny weekend to witness several aspects of culture and tourism that Sri Lanka has to offer the world.

Since the sunny weather conditions prevailing in Scandinavia at this time of the year usually provoke a festive mood and motivate people to think about their next holiday destination, the embassy seized the opportunity to conduct the event in August during the height of summer.

The large LED digital screen placed at the venue by the embassy relayed cultural and tourism information on Sri Lanka, allowing visitors to consider having their next holiday in the country.

The sprawling extent of the area at Wallenbergs Torg offered the embassy the flexibility to display posters and other cultural artefacts of Sri Lanka illustrating the beauty and rich culture the country is endowed with.

Introducing Sri Lankan music to the public and adding more colour and vibrancy to the event, a group of Sri Lankan expatriates, clad in typical batik sarongs and straw hats, joined together in song, much to the delight of those present at the occasion.

The information centre set up at the venue by the embassy distributed tourist brochures to several inquiring visitors. A culinary demonstration where hoppers and dosa were prepared drew a large crowd interested in Sri Lankan cuisine. The visitors savoured the flavours of other varieties of Sri Lankan food as well.

Other attractions included the tea stall containing an assortment of Ceylon tea presented artistically to generate interest among onlookers curious to learn more this precious commodity. The slightly chilly afternoon, combined with the comfortable seating arrangements made available at the stall, created the perfect ambiance for the visitors to sit back and enjoy a relaxed conversation with their friends over a cup of Ceylon tea.

The Wallenbergs Torg was made accessible to the Sri Lanka Embassy on the basis of an agreement the embassy reached with the Stockholm Stad (the municipality of Stockholm Organization).

The Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and the Ceylon Tea Board played a pivotal role in assisting the Sri Lankan Embassy in Stockholm to bring the event to fruition. Many Sri Lankan expatriates extended their support towards the event in numerous ways.

The embassy conducted the event to reach out directly to the client, which is considered one of the most effective methods of promoting tourism.

In consonance with the title of the event ‘A Glimpse of Sri Lanka’, this activity helped promote Sri Lanka as one of the exquisite destinations in the world.

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Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean kicks off in Colombo


The two-day annual Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean (HICIO) 2016 kicked off yesterday at Hilton Colombo. The event focuses on the markets of the Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles within the Indian Ocean (IO) region. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Maldives Deputy Minister of Tourism  Hussain Lirar attended the ceremonial inauguration

– Pix by Gitika Talukdar

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Sri Lanka aims to build tourism momentum


Increased international arrivals and expansion into new segments are key elements in Sri Lanka’s plans to boost revenue in its growing tourism sector, an important earner of foreign currency.

Aiming for a marked increase

Sri Lanka saw a sharp rise in tourism arrivals in the first half of the year, with inbound traffic up 16.7% year-on-year (y-o-y) through to July, for a total of 1.17m arrivals.

While these figures are positive, a closer look shows more nuanced growth. The first three months of this year saw a 22.1% y-o-y increase, but visitor numbers were up by just 2.2% y-o-y in June.

The second quarter of the year is typically a low season for tourism, in part due to the Yala Monsoon season between May and August. However, the easing of the growth rate in June was the smallest increase posted for more than two and a half years.

One possible cause of the weaker performance could be a decrease in arrivals from of a number of key markets, including Russia, South-east Asia and the Middle East, possibly reflecting slowing economies in those regions. Arrivals from the Middle East, for example, were down 58% y-o-y in June, with 82% fewer visitors from Saudi Arabia, according to press reports.

Arrival growth will need to rebound strongly in the third quarter if the sector is to regain its momentum and achieve this year’s targets of 2.5m foreign tourists and $ 3.5 billion in revenue, set by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. If this target is met, it will represent a marked increase on the 1.8m arrivals and $ 2.86 billion in revenue in 2015.

Despite the weak June performance, data from July indicates a rebound may be on the way, with arrivals expanding by 19.1% y-o-y.

Diversifying the sector base 

The strong performance of the sector early in the year was cited in a mid-year government fiscal report as one of the driving forces behind higher GDP growth.

The report, issued on 30 June, said GDP expanded by 5.5% y-o-y in the first quarter, up from 4.4% for the same period last year.

While there was a dip in export earnings, stemming in part from global economic headwinds, the Ministry of Finance said that tourism helped bridge the revenue gap and boost foreign exchange inflows.

To support continued growth, the government targets attracting 4m visitors and increasing tourism revenue to $5bn by 2020, according to John Amaratunge, minister of tourism development and Christian religious affairs, more than double the 2015 numbers.

In part, officials say this is to be achieved by improving the existing product, including more investments in hospitality facilities, while also broadening the base of the industry.

Traditional sea and sun offerings are expected to remain core attractions; however, more will be done to promote alternative streams including health, sports and ecotourism.

Expanding MICE capacity

The Government has also identified the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) segment as one with significant potential.

While this segment was already valued at more than $ 400m in 2014, Amaratunge recently said efforts were under way to promote Sri Lanka as a MICE destination to ramp up competitiveness.

“This is something we need to work on, as our MICE tourism capacity is lagging behind,” he said during a travel conference in mid-June. “We see huge growth potential for this segment, especially from India and China.”

The segment is expected to get a boost at the end of October, with France’s National Union of Travel Agents (Syndicat National des Agences de Voyages, SNAV) – which represents 1300 travel outlets – set to hold its annual congress in Colombo. The government lobbied SNAV to stage its meeting in Sri Lanka as part of its campaign to raise the country’s profile as a MICE destination.

Cruise destination

While the overall increase in arrivals bodes well for the sector, officials are also seeking to target the higher end of the tourism market to boost revenue per visitor, a policy underscored by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a speech in June.

One way Sri Lanka is looking to achieve this objective is through promoting the island as a cruise destination. The country hosted more than 50,000 cruise tourists last year from a total of 40 liners, according to Rohantha Athukorala, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau.

Authorities have targeted 100,000 sea-borne arrivals by 2017, though this will require increased investments in port infrastructure and improvements in passenger and luggage handling and logistics.

(This ‘Sri Lanka economic update’ was produced by Oxford Business Group).

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Govt. to list 4 hotels soon


Tourism Development and Christian Affairs John Amaratunga (right) speaks at the  Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean yesterday at Hilton Colombo

By Charumini de Silva

The Government will shortly offer investment opportunities in the tourism sector, with plans underway to resurrect non-strategic enterprises by listing them on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), a top Minister said.

“The Hilton Colombo, Grand Hyatt, Waters Edge and Grand Oriental Hotel will soon be listed to be divested in the private sector,” Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs John Amaratunga said.

He said that with absolute peace in all parts of the country and a stable Government that has given priority to the development of the economy, it was the right time to draw global attention to Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka is a unique island destination unlike any other its size. It is a compact yet diverse and authentic island with a rich cultural heritage where tourism plays a vital role in its economy. Investment is certainly flowing in but we would like to see some of it going to the North as well which offers huge potential,” he added.

Speaking at the Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean held in Colombo yesterday, the Minister said that necessary steps had been taken to address the massive manpower requirement which was escalating with increasing arrival targets, new hotels and thousands of new rooms in the offing. Already some of the world’s top hotel brands such as the Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La, Sheraton and ITC had begun constructing properties in the country.

According to estimates, over 20,000 new jobs will be added to the hospitality sector each year over the next four years, raising the number directly employed in the hospitality trade from 140,000 at present to 240,000 by 2020.

“Judging by the current trend, we are confident of achieving our target of four million arrivals by the year 2020,” he stated.

Despite industry experts suggesting that Sri Lanka should focus on attracting the high-spending upmarket segment, the Minister pointed out that the Government wanted Sri Lanka to continue to be a destination for people from all walks of life.

“We have no problem with budget travellers and backpackers. We welcome the hostels and other establishments that are opening up to cater to these segments as well.”

He also said that there was substantial state investment in infrastructure development in identified tourist resorts based on a new master plan being formulated by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

“We are also investing in developing domestic air connectivity to get over the road traffic congestion issue. New airports will be opened close to Kalpitiya in the North Western Province and in Badulla in the Central Province. One was recently opened in Batticaloa in the Eastern Province,” he pointed out.

The message of Sri Lanka being one of the safest countries in the world has not filtered down to some of the target markets, according to the Minister and this was a barrier which needed to be overcome. In light of this, a worldwide destination promotion campaign on a multimedia platform will be launched by Sri Lanka Tourism towards November this year.

Furthermore, the authorities are keen to develop the MICE segment in addition to medical, health and wellness tourism, adventure and sports tourism and event-based tourism.

Amaratunga also said the finalisation of the Megapolis Plan and the new financial city would make Colombo the trading and commercial hub of the Indian Ocean region.

With the Government completing its first year in office last week, the Minister went on to note that it had put in place the fundamentals that were needed for investment to flow in.

“Sri Lanka is poised for economic take-off. Today Sri Lanka has a changed political landscape that is hinged on good governance, upholding democratic values and human rights and inclusive development of the country.”

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Reception for Civil Aviation Conference delegates hosted at BMICH

Untitled-10The outdoor reception hosted at the BMICH by SriLankan Airlines

Over 400 high-level foreign delegates from the civil aviation sector, including their spouses, arrived in Sri Lanka recently to participate in the prestigious 53rd Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation Asia and Pacific Region.

The BMICH, recognised for bringing magnificence to all events in a seamless fashion, was selected as the venue to host the Civil Aviation Conference reception and dinner by SriLankan Airlines. The front terrace of the BMICH provided an enchanting setting for the outdoor reception.

“We’re extremely proud to host the Civil Aviation Conference reception organised by SriLankan Airlines at the BMICH. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the BMICH’s outdoors and banquet hall as unparalleled venues to host gatherings such as pre- and post-conference receptions,” said BMICH Director/Chief Executive Sunil Dissanayake.

Those in attendance were Directors General of Civil Aviation representing the Asia Pacific Region, the President and Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Chairman, Board of Directors and senior management of SriLankan Airlines.

Over 35 countries participated in this conference including Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Canada, China, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Fiji Island, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, LAO People’s Democratic Republic, Macao China, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the US.

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Tourism to get a boost with racing up in the hills


With tourism being a key foreign exchange earner, horseracing is bound to bring in many high-spending tourists as is the case around the world with the Royal Ascot and the Melbourne Cup.

“With the proper development of this sport, tourism will benefit greatly, resulting once again in the generation of employment both directly as well as indirectly, not forgetting the valuable foreign exchange that will be brought into the country,” said Royal Turf Club CEO Wayne Wood.

20 August dawned bright and clear, with the sun shining on the racecourse and all of Nuwara Eliya as the RTC commenced its new season.

An action-packed Saturday morning kicked off with the inauguration of the newly-built saddling enclosure, yet another achievement in improving the infrastructure of the Royal Turf Club, followed by some really competitive racing backed by superb entertainment.

As evidenced by the enthusiasm displayed by the large number of tourists and Sri Lankans who were present, horseracing will undoubtedly prove to be an income generator and foreign exchange earner.

Regarding the generation of employment, Wood said: “With the additional race meetings, the additional horses, the construction that is ongoing, there are many jobs available for the right people. This is not only fantastic for the community but for the whole of Sri Lanka.”

The Thoroughbred Horse Auction that took place was also another first for Sri Lanka.

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Special moments of the train ride arranged for UNWTO delegates

The foreign delegates who arrived in Sri Lanka to participate at the recently-concluded United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference in Passikuda were transferred to Pasikudda by a special train organised by Sri Lanka Tourism.

The train ride from Katunayake airport to Valachchenai railway station, about eight km away from Passikudah was a real eye-opener as the delegates experienced the unique beauty of the country whilst many villagers waved cheerfully as the train sped past towns and villages. The historic train journey was described as ‘fantastic’ by delegates including UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai.

The high profile conference which was organised by Sri Lanka Tourism in collaboration with UNWTO was held in July at Amaya Beach Resort, Passikudah. This was the first time a high profile international conference was held in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka to showcase the tourism potential of the east coast.



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