SL one of the best countries to enjoy whale watching

Project Blueprint – a joint venture between SriLankan Airlines and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), has successfully concluded another whale watch operator training workshop in Kalpitiya. The key objective of Project Blueprint is to make Sri Lanka’s waters safer for blue whales and other cetaceans. Partners associated with the project include Sri Lanka Tourist Bureau (SLTPB), Jetwing Hotels and Cinnamon Hotels.

The project also aims to assist with the revitalisation of coastal communities through engagement in responsible whale watching activities and partnership with local development agencies, local wildlife tourism industries and local fishermen. Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world in which to enjoy whale watching, with a variety of blue whales, sperm whales and 25 other cetacean species to be seen. However, these beautiful creatures are increasingly threatened and endangered by a combination of irresponsible, unregulated whale watching and ship strikes.

To combat this, project Blueprint aims to raise awareness, provide training and scientific support to the burgeoning industry so that whales can continue to inhabit the waters and a responsible industry can benefit local people. Speaking at a recently held media briefing SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said that it was necessary to speak to the private sector in order to identify the right target market to promote whale watching in Kalpitiya, Mirissa and Trincomalee. Further Athukorala said, “It looks like whale watching is a very unique product that we can develop in Sri Lanka. It is time we offer something contemporary to our visitors, but the product needs to be properly sketched out, in terms of overall attributes and branding. I want to sit with the private sector and ask their views in tapping the best target market of our key markets UK, German, France, Italy, China and India.”

“We have to have a very strong digital marketing campaign because digital marketing is the way forward for developing tourism. After having a comprehensive dialogue with the private sector, I look forward to set up a communication strategy where private and public sector could work together in developing one brand,” he added. WDC Program, Vanessa Williams-Grey said, “Sri Lanka has the potential to be one of the top destinations in the world for watching blue whales and sperm whales, but achieving the coveted ‘gold standard’ requires the highest standards across the board. Hence, raising awareness and educating the local community about responsible whale watching is of utmost importance in ensuring sustainable tourism.

Sharing experience of encountering a school of sperm whales during a recent underwater photo shoot in Kalpitiya WDC Program, Andrew Sutton said it was the largest school of sperm whales he had see in Sri Lankan waters. “There were two large groups with over 20 sperm whales, which was an amazing experience. We also encountered five killer whales in Kalpitiya, which is new to the Sri Lankan waters. Thus, I don’t see any reason why Sri Lanka should not promote whale watching,” he noted. The airline, wildlife charity and other partners will work together to jointly develop a community-based responsible whale and dolphin watching industry off the coast of Sri Lanka and encourage responsible behaviour amongst local boat tour operators.

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Sri Lanka Tourism Strategy: China 2015 launched with private sector

The marketing strategy by Sri Lanka Tourism to market China for 2015 was launched with a private-public partnership in the presence of the Deputy Mission in Charge of the Sri Lankan Embassy of the People’s Republic of China with top 65 photographers from Shanghai Photographic Association capturing the beauty of Sri Lanka under the theme ‘Sri Lanka – beauty in my eyes’.

Today is unique as we have the key stakeholders from the private sector who operate the market China at the launch where together, we will firm up the marketing plan for China and continuously work together to make an impact to the market place said Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala. The Chinese Embassy of Sri Lanka Deputy Head of Mission Ren Faqiang commented, “I like the aggressive but focussed strategy of Sri Lanka Tourism in the China market. It is well thought through and more over accountable for delivery of results, Already you are having access to five key markets and now that you are focussing on testing a market development program on the Shi-shuan province is commendable given the accessibility for direct air travel between Chengdu and Colombo,” he commented.

Athukorala voiced, “If we can build the new markets in China like Sichuan Province which has 90 million people and two million who travel overseas to come to Sri Lanka, we operate seven flights a week from the current five will be ideal so that specific hotels can be targeted in line with the interests and requirements of the target group. As at end February the tourist arrivals from China registers a growth of 85.7% over last year and is poised to be the number two market in the Sri Lankan portfolio.
Founder of ASMET veteran tourism expert Mervin Fernandopulle mentioned that the need for translators is key and it must be fast tracked if we are really going to make the experience positive to a Chinese traveller. Respected tourism personality and Managing Director for Jetwing Hotels Shiromal Cooray mentioned that, “For the first time we see the detail marketing plan for the Chinese market and as the GSA for Air China in Sri Lanka I am pleased at the focussed development strategy that we are working to build the business in China. The market head for China at the Sri Lanka tourism promotion bureau Chinthaka Liyanarachchi stated in the Marketing Plan that a combination of above the line and below the line advertising, travel trade meets ups, focussed one to one meetings with the travel trade and media visits by Chinese journalists to current and new tourism products in Sri Lanka will be highlighted so that focussed deals can be linked with the private sector participants. Separately, join promotions with Air China and screen based marketing will also be implemented quipped Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Director Marketing Madhubani Perera.

To make the launch event unique Sri Lanka Tourism on the recommendation of the foreign ministry flew down 65 key photographers from China in partnership with the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka of the People Republic of China where 650 photographs were captured during a 12 day tour of Sri Lanka and the best photos were uploaded to Chinese digital media WE CHAT and WEIBO. Earlier during the year Sri Lanka tourism launched the one million tree stories project with Miss World Rolene Strauss that reached 100 million Chinese.

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Elephant Reach Hotel Yala in major refurbishment and expansion drive

The pool area

Elephant Reach Hotel Yala renowned for exclusive Safari excursions at Yala wildlife sanctuary is to add 20 more Eco-friendly accommodation chalets with an investment of Rs 40 million. This is in addition to the refurbishment to its chalets with a cost of over Rs 15 million. The company also plans in investing a further Rs 100 million in the opening of five more hotels within two years and set up a state of the art Chinese restaurant next to its newest property Beach Camp Yala.

Elephant Reach wild life resort situated just 12 km from the Yala wildlife sanctuary consists of 21 chalets and 14 standard rooms. “We are working on expanding the hotel to serve more guests by adding 20 more eco-friendly rooms. We will also be adding a gymnasium and spa to give guests a complete, relaxing experience,” said Eshan Mendis, Manager, Elephant Reach Hotel.

Mendis said the hotels now running at a profit recorded high occupation margins with over 70% in January and 90% in February. The hotel also banks on its excellent service to lure customers and has grown from strength to strength setting standards in world-class accommodation and service in the Yala region. He said recently the hotel advanced to the fourth position in tripadvisor ratings and that was ample evidence that Elephant Reach Hotel offers far superior service than other players in the region and plans to upgrade its grade as a four star property within a year’s time.

Lanka Hotel and Travels Holdings (LHT Holdings) owns two more properties Richmond Villa Kandy and Beach Camp Yala situated in Kirinda Nidangala, said Sales and Marketing Manager Dhiman Nonis. “Elephant Reach is undergoing a major facelift and following the refurbishment and value additions, Elephant Reach will be a 4 Star Class Hotel,” he said. Nonis said the management has also planned to increase the number of properties to eight within two years with Dambulla, Mirissa and Nuwara Eliya in mind.

The hotel also celebrated its 9th year anniversary on Sunday. The past couple of years saw Elephant Reach hotel reach peak with a steady increase in arrivals of guests from China and Europe and has introduced a variety of services at the hotel to ensure a lasting impression.

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Sri Lanka Tourism partners National Craft Council in global promotions strategy

Sri Lanka Tourism and the National Craft Council announced a new partnership and global promotional strategy.
The partnership will see traditional crafts being promoted through Sri Lankan stalls during international tourism and travel fairs including live demonstrations of Sri Lankan handicrafts. “With this tie-up, the best handicraft artisans will have the opportunity to show case their skill set to the world by way of being present at the 47 top global tourism and travel exhibitions that Sri Lanka Tourism will be attending in 2015,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala stated.
Largely made up of small and medium enterprises, the best of artisans in Sri Lanka’s handicraft industry are selected for more rigorous training of which approximately 15% are reported to source products to craft retail outlets such as the State-run store, Laksala. “This is a historic occasion given that almost all handicraft artisans are SMEs and micro industrial entrepreneurs and with this partnership all of them will have access to the global economy,” National Handicraft Council Chairman Buddi Keerthisena stated. He added that such access to international markets through the partnership would also help to further develop local industry.

Commenting on wider strategy, Athukorala cited Nation Brand Finance (UK) estimates of Sri Lanka’s brand value as a country at approximately $61 billion, up 30% Year-on-Year (YoY), and stated that he had targeted a brand value of $ 80 billion in 2015 by way of attracting better quality tourists, top-dollar investments and higher value on export merchandise. “With this partnership, in a typical Sri Lankan Pavilion apart from the travel and tourism trade participants, now we have a Ceylon Tea Boutique through a Rs. 1 billion working partnership between Sri Lanka Tourism and the Tea Board that was inked last month and now extended to showcase live handicraft artisan at work which gives an opportunity for a global consumer experience all facets of Sri Lanka as per the Nation Brand building model of Simon Anholt,” Athukorala stated.

He added that this new “three-pronged attack” would be tested during the upcoming Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) in Dubai in May and simultaneously at the Sri Lankan Pavilion at World expo 2015 in Milan while noting that feedback from this approach at the Moscow and Gothenburg fairs last week were very positive. “Now we must formalise the partnership and make it systemic so that it becomes promotional policy in the future,” Athukorala stated.

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Cinnamon Lakeside partially closed for repairs till Oct.

Ffive star hotel, Cinnamon Lakeside, overlooking the Beira Lake in downtown Colombo, will be partially closed from Monday, the hotel management Trans Asia Hotels said in a statement.
In a stock market disclosure Keells Consultants for Trans Asia Hotels said Cinnamon Lakeside will be partially closed from 30 March 2015 towrds undertaking urgent repairs.
The repairs are expected to be completed in October 2015.

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Sri Lanka Tourism embarks on focused brand building in Russia

Given that the Russian economy is struggling with economic embargoes that has resulted in currency depreciation by almost 100% and Russian arrivals to Sri Lanka plunging by 32%, Sri Lanka Tourism had invested in the market with strong brand building with a focused relationship with key travel agents and tour operators at the key Russian fair MITT that was staged in Moscow last week.
“Once the economy opens out, the strong relationships can respond to selected market selection where Sri Lanka can benefit,” said Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala.

The Sri Lanka delegation was led by Managing Director Milanka Gajanayaka who ensured the Sri Lanka booth was up and running when the suppliers at the MITT fair found it tough to meet the stringent standards that Sri Lanka Tourism sets for its global marketing promotions.

A total of 11 leading tour operators participated at MITT this year including Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts, Aitken Spence Travels, Deluxe Vacations Ltd., Delux Holidays Ltd., Pigion Island Resort, Long Beach Resort & Spa, Connaissance De Ceylon, Exotic Holiday International Ltd., Bernard Tours Ltd., Green Holiday Center Ltd. and Concord Exotic Voyages Lanka Ltd.
Sri Lankan representatives were able to meet with the top tour operators of Russia during the show such as PAKS Tours, Russian Express, TZ Tours, KOMPAS Tours, etc., creating a golden opportunity to revive business strategy during this challenging period of time.
The highlight of the conference was the Ceylon Tea Boutique that catered to the visitors with single origin Ceylon Tea which was staged in partnership with the Sri Lanka Tea Board and drew a large crowd for the Ceylon Tea experience.
The Sri Lanka Tourism stand stood elegant at the show featuring all aspects of destination promotions with live video screens attracting all visitors. The Sri Lanka Embassy staff in Russia and the Sri Lanka Tourism Brand Manager of the Russian market Viranga Bandara played a key role in achieving promotional goals of MITT.

Sri Lanka Tourism hopes to roll out a focused advertising and PR strategy for the Russian market including media promotions and setting up video walls with promotional videos in highly-populated areas such as the Red Square to further develop the avenues in promoting the destination to counter the present situation in the Russian market.

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Sri Lanka Tourism gets 4th place at ITB for best booth

The Sri Lankan booth attracted visitors with its famous Ceylon tea serviced to every visitor in addition SriLankan Airlines also added weight to the country brand image, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala stated in a media release.

Sri Lanka Tourism won fourth place among 83 countries for the best booth from 11,000 exhibition booths at the recently concluded German travel mart ITB, 2015 in Berlin. “One Island a thousand treasures” was the theme of the Sri Lanka Tourism booth.

The Sri Lankan booth attracted visitors with its famous Ceylon tea serviced to every visitor in addition SriLankan Airlines also added weight to the country brand image, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala stated in a media release.

The judging was led by Dean of Tourism, Prof. Dr. Florian Hummel and Martina Leicher the Director of Business consulting working in close collaboration with Messe Berlin, it was stated. The evaluation was broken down to two stages; the best 15 picked fro each georgraphical area and then scrutinized in the second pass by another team armed with a more elaborative in- depth criteria before the decision is made on the top ten, the release said.

Sri Lanka was classified into the most competitive geographical area of Asia/ Australia/ Oceania where entrenched competition exists given that most western tourists tour the world’s hot spots in Asia, the release said.

The release explained that Asia attracts the highest and best quality tourists as most markets are just opening up such as the strategic partnering country for ITB 2015, Mongolia, the Maldives, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar.

Sri Lankan Ambassador for Germany and Switzerland Karunatilleke Amunugama said the attendance of the Ambassador of Germany in Sri Lanka and two ministers from the Government of Germany demonstrates the strong working relationship that exists between the Sri Lanka and Germany. “Let us now build on this strong foundation,” he said.

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