Aitken Spence to introduce Heritance brand to Maldives

Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence Hotels and Resorts is to introduce its Heritance brand to the Maldives with the opening of Heritance Aarah next year, according to Maldivian news website Maldivian Insider.

In 2015, Aitken Spence acquired the uninhabited island of Aarah in the northern Raa atoll for US$ 50 million to develop it as a five-star resort. Accessible by a scenic 40-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport, Heritance Aarah will offer 157 villas and suites separated by tropical vegetation for privacy, and designed and built with a fusion of indigenous Maldivian and modern architecture.

The accommodation options include 51 beach villas, 10 family beach villas, 10 pool beach villas, four family pool beach villas, 56 water villas, 25 luxury water villas and a presidential water suite.

Aitken Spence, which manages over 24 hotels in Sri Lanka, India, Oman and the Maldives, runs six properties in the Maldives under its Adaaran brand— Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, Adaaran Club Rannalhi, Adaaran Prestige Vadoo, Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas and Adaaran Prestige Ocean Villas.

Along with Aarah, Aitken Spence acquired lease rights of another uninhabited island, Raafushi in the northern Noonu atoll. The company, however, is yet to disclose its development plans for the island. Four Heritance branded hotels are in operation across Sri Lanka, including Heritance Kandalma, Heritance Tea Factory, Heritance Negombo, Heritance Ayurveda and Heritance Ahungalla.

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China’s One Belt initiative to increase tourist arrivals to the region

Minister of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga presenting a token to PATA Chairman Andrew Jones. Picture by Susantha Wijegunasekera.  See page ii

Chinese arrivals will be Sri Lanka’s strongest inbound market over taking India in the future, said Chairman, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Andrew Jones.

Speaking at the PATA conference, Jetwing Blue Hotel in Negombo, last week he said that overall Sri Lanka arrivals too would increase by 10.4 percent annually up to 2021. He said that one of the biggest problems facing the industry in the future would be to find young tourism professionals.

“The Asia Pacific Region too would attract higher number of arrivals for the 2017-2021 periods and the region would pass the 3.7 million arrival mark by 2021,” said Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai. “We expect 5 billion people to travel out by 2030,” The Secretary-General envisaged.

He said that the proposed One Belt initiative mooted by China would also help to increased tourist arrivals in the region. Rifai said however that attracting 4.5 million tourist arrivals by 2020 by Sri Lanka Tourism may be a tall order.

The Secretary-General said that today’s world was changing to digital technology and destination marketing tools should be focused in that direction. “Today you don’t need huge budgets for marketing. What you need today is innovative marketing tools powered by technology,” he added.

Minister of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that tourism was the quickest sector to recover after ending the war and today it’s the third highest foreign exchange earner of Sri Lanka.

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Malaysia to peg US$ 300 mn in Lanka’s leisure sector

 The Malaysian government and the private sector were looking at investing nearly US$ 300 million on theme parks and other leisure sectors.

In addition Malaysian investors were also keen to invest in oil, gas and energy sectors in Sri Lanka, said Malaysian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Wan Zaidi Wan Abdullah at the Malaysian High Commission yesterday.

“We are encouraging Malaysian companies to engage in projects in Sri Lanka like the construction of power stations and construction and management of gas distribution terminals in the island. We are also looking at Hambantota for investment opportunities,” he said.

“Malaysian investments to other countries in 2016 was around US$ 115 billion. In addition Malaysian investments within Malaysia reached US$ 2 billion last year. We are hoping that part of this investment could be channeled to Sri Lanka in the future. We are looking at venturing not only into tourism sector businesses but leisure and theme parks and the discussions are undergoing now about the projects,” he said.

“I am trying my best to promote businesses between the two countries and encourage the advent of Malaysian commercial and residential integrated government development projects to Sri Lanka. My target is for the next few years to get more foreign direct investment from Malaysia to Sri Lanka.

The areas that we are looking at are telecommunication, construction, infrastructure, education and tourism. Now we are working hard to venture into healthcare and Malaysia’s expertise in running private healthcare service, supply of medical equipment and technical assistant to medical staff would be beneficial to Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We are working closely with the Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and the exports are growing between the two countries and we are planning to open another 2,000 job opportunities to Sri Lankan workers this year in addition to the 6,000 Sri Lankan workforce in Malaysia,” he added.

The Malaysian High Commissioner added that bilateral relations with Sri Lanka were very cordial and friendly and the Malaysian Prime Minister was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka end of the year and with his visit they were planning to venture into various economic and other operations that collaborated with Sri Lankan effectively.

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Sri Lanka a land of respect says UNWTO Chief

  • Highlights importance of technology for secure and seamless travel
  • Says world is determined with travel and digital revolution 
  • Urges stakeholders to build responsible, committed tourism sector for economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace

IN-2By Charumini de Silva

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai last week termed Sri Lanka a land of visit, respect and enjoy, while commending its outstanding performance in 2016 with over two million tourist arrivals.

In his remarks at the PATA Annual Summit 2017 at Jetwing Beach, Negombo, Dr. Rifai spoke on the ‘wonders’ of Sri Lanka as a destination that he has come to love adding, “People travel to places they respect culture, people, history and Sri Lanka is such a destination.”

Noting that 2016 was a great year for Sri Lanka he said the country surpassed two million tourist arrivals for the first time in its history while posting a growth of 14%.

He said this year’s PATA Summit theme ‘Disruption. Innovation. Transformation: The Future of Tourism’ is extremely timely given the fact that the world is determined with two main revolutions of travel and digitalisation.

“This is the age of travel with millions exploring and crossing borders. We need to use technology to develop better and new experiences, along with same, secure and seamless travel,” he said.

According to him over 1.2 billion people crossed borders and 2016 in general was indeed a great year of travel and tourism.

UNWTO forecasts, international travel will reach two billion travellers from the current 1.2 billion in the next 15 years. These two billion travellers will head to destinations that create market share by strategically investing in sustainable tourism.

Hinting that this is likely to be his last official assignment as he steps down as Secretary General, Dr. Rifai said: “The United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development making this a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalise its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation.”

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SriLankan Airlines renews support to boost tourism

IN-1National carrier SriLankan Airlines pledged its support to bolster the tourism industry while announcing that its focus has changed primarily to regions in the Far East and India.

Noting that the airline was essentially set up to help the country’s tourism industry, SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias said they would continue to focus on tourism promotion and were working closely with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).

“That’s where our focus has been and will be in the future as well,” he said at a press briefing held at the PATA Annual Summit 2017 held in Negombo last Friday.

It was pointed out that SriLankan Airlines’ passenger numbers have changed significantly in the recent past especially with Chinese and Indian traveller numbers increasing considerably.

Dias also said that SriLankan Airlines is now the largest foreign carrier to India, which makes total stations to 12.

“With the latest destination additions of Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Kochi it makes SriLankan Airlines the largest foreign carrier to India,” he added.

  • Says Chinese and Indian passenger numbers have improved significantly 
  • SriLankan Airlines further expands in India increasing number of destinations to 12
  • Plans to commence direct flights to Hong Kong and Vietnam
  • Chairman says decision-making is difficult being a State entity

Furthermore, he said that as the airline receives new smaller aircrafts, they hoped to commence direct flights to Hong Kong, while Vietnam was also on the cards.

With SriLankan Airlines being a State-owned airline, Dias said it was a little difficult to make their own decisions and plans.

“As the Board of Directors we need to get the approval of the State. It is a little difficult for us to make our own plans. We work closely with the Government,” he noted.

In terms of the wellbeing of its passengers, he said that SriLankan Airlines had earned a reputation for its friendly hospitality in this part of the world.

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PATA Annual Summit concludes

Minister John Amaratunga, Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Paddy Withana, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai, PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy and other officials at the launch. Picture by Susantha Wijegunasekera

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Annual Summit (PAS 2017), hosted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, concluded at Jetwing Blue Hotel, Negombo, Sri Lanka last week.

Under the theme ‘Disruption, Innovation, Transformation: The Future of Tourism’, the event also featured a half-day UNWTO/PATA ministerial debate where industry leaders and government representatives discussed the topics ‘The Shift to Recognised Sustainability Leadership’ and ‘The Sharing Economy in Travel and Tourism’.

“We were happy to host the event in Sri Lanka as it would give good mileage to market Sri Lanka as a destination,” said PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy. “Trends are so positive, and tourism is growing and is expected to grow further. There are a few megatrends coming up which are forming the global economy as well as deciding the future of tourism. These are the aging population, generations Y and Z, and the growth of the middle class.”

The global population is aging and as a result a significant tourist segment is emerging, named ‘silver hair tourists’ with specific desires and needs in terms of customistion, service consumption, security and desired products.

In addition, the arrival of millennials, also known as Generation Y and iGen are also contributing to changes in tourism for the future.

These groups are technology-driven age groups, different from one another, with specific needs for communication, consumption and tourist experience. The increase in average income and the fall in levels of absolute poverty are seen in the growing middle class. The middle class population is expected to increase further, up to 4.9 billion by 2030. These characteristics too, will have a considerable impact on the tourism sector.

“With the development of technology, it is unlikely that they will follow the traditional travel methods.”

PATA Annual Summit 2017, a four-day event, brought together thought leaders and travel and tourism industry professionals from around the world who spoke about the constantly evolving travel and tourism landscape challenged by disruption, continuous innovation and transformation.

Tourism Development, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that this is the third time PATA is hosting an event of this magnitude. Colombo, Bentota, Kandy and finally Negombo were the venues for the event.

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Govt. develop Hummanaya blowhole as a tourist attraction

01The Government will take measures to develop the Hummanaya blowhole at Kudawella in the South as a tourist attraction, State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Dilip Wedaarachchi said.

Participating in a meeting held at the Tangalle Divisional Secretariat District Secretariat on Tuesday, the State Minister said the Southern Province will be developed as a tourism zone under the program “Balagathu Srilankavak”.

Officials of Coast Conservation Department, Southern Development Board, District secretariat, Pradeshiya Sabha as well as Grama Sevakas attended the meeting.

The minister appointed a team headed by the Divisional Secretary.

Hummanaya will be developed in parallel to the development of Tangalle port as a marina. Under the project facilities to view the natural blowhole from the sea, while aquarium, pools, children’s parks and tourist bungalows will be built along with the infrastructure facilities.

Hummanaya Blowhole is the only known blowhole in Sri Lanka and it is considered to be the second largest blowhole in the world. The site has been developed with a small visitors’ information center and a viewing platform at present.

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