Archive for September, 2012

Elamulla Eco Bungalow an Unmatched Hideout

Elamulla is a remote location on the Northern slop of the Piduruthalagala Mountain range in the Nuwara Eliya District bordering the mysteriously beautiful Mandaram Nuwara. As the name reveals, Mandaram Nuwara, the gloomiest spot in Sri Lanka covered by the tallest mountain ranges and the forest shadows, is probably one of the best locations for adventurous excursions like trekking in trails mostly lush with a full range of flora and fauna to resemble a complete biodiversity on offer.

Definitely out of the popular and recognised tourism zones, ‘Elamulla Ecological Bungalow’ is situated in the middle of the serene settings of one of Sri Lanka’s largest organic farmlands in Elamulla with a picturesque Piduruthalagala mountain range as back drop. ‘Elamulla retreat is one of the most unique properties nature had gifted and probably the most unexplored destination Sri Lanka could offer.

‘Elamulla Ecological Bungalow’ is nearly 65 kms away from Kandy and just two kms from Mandaram Nuwara on Rikillagaskada Padiyapalella road. Mandaram Nuwara is an exclusively unique location within close proximity to the resort which is a definite plus point in elaborating the value of the location.

‘Elamulla Ecological Bungalow’, which was opened just two months ago after the renovation, offers five luxury rooms, overlooking the splendour of Elamulla Water fall and the virgin forest surrounded by the estate.

‘This bungalow is well over 80 years old and it has been refurbished and transformed into a modern luxury retreat, now available to indulge the Lanka’s latest unspoilt location’ said Janaka Dodanwala, Manager of the property.

Especially, the retreat is an unmatched hideout from the rest of the world for a total relaxation and yet with the basic luxuries one could possibly expect from a small luxury resort.

The property is an authentic granite structured colonial bungalow with five bed rooms out of which two sets of rooms are inter-connecting and one is an exclusive individual unit, thus offering three accommodation units.

The Elamulla Bungalow is comprised with a private pool in the back yard and with a wooden fired chimney together with a spectacular garden which spans over the mountain range to create a unique tranquillity for an exclusive colonial retreat.

‘The visitors can now experience an unforgettable holiday by participating in various activities apart from absolute relaxing. We have two water falls and a natural pond for total private bathing and three to two hour trek cross the estate to Habaragala Forest’ Janaka explained.

The guests too can join the field work at the organic farming and gain hands on experience and observation of organic cultivation practices at the 17 acre garden and farm.

The garden and the farm with authentic organic farming for fruits, vegetables and herbs will make an unique combination with the bungalow to have its own farms to provide the fruit and vegetable requirement of the resort.

‘The sumptuous Sri Lankan food served at the bungalow, is authentically organic

and exclusively from our own gardens. Apart from that our paddy field are now on production with ancient rice varieties such as ‘heenati’, ‘suvandal’, ‘pachchaperumal’, ‘olu’ to name a few’ said Sampath Senanayake, Director General Manager –Operations of the Bio Food (Pvt.) Limited, the owning company of the Bungalow.

‘Like other hotels and resorts, we do not have any set times for meals. Breakfast, lunch or dinner will be served at times requested by our guests. It is lazy living at Elamulla’ Janaka said.

Bird watching and jungle safaris can be arranged on request. Wild bore, leopards, wild frogs, braking deer and varieties of birds can be encountered at this unrefined nature.

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World Spice Festival has emerged as an annual event publicizing internationally our reputation of being a country blessed abundantly with spices having  historical links with countries of far East and Asia, Spice Food Festival has been in the calendar of events of Sri Lanka Tourism since 2005.

‘World Spice Food Festival ’ is an annual culinary event  organized by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority with the participation of local and foreign signature chefs in Colombo five star Hotels & designated Restaurants.

In the cost benefit analysis it is revealed that the publicity generated by this event has contributed immensely to the efforts of tourism industry to promote culinary tourism. In the analysis of why people travel, culinary tourism now surfaces prominently with the travelers exploring food habits of the destination they visit. Considering the publicity element and the importance of culinary tourism in the diversity of attractions we project, the World Spice Food Festival has become more important than ever before.

The public event “Hawkers’ street food promotion” is scheduled to take place at ‘Board Walk’ of Waters Edge  ,Battaramulla  from 05th  to 07th October 2012 this year.

Sri Lanka Tourism initiated this event in 2005 in order to popularize spiced cuisine among foreign visitors and to offer more dining options for both local and foreign visitors in Hotels & Restaurants. Further, it is also expected to have Sri Lankan counterparts given cross exposures in international spiced cuisine.

It has been held annually since 2005 with the participation of foreign signature chefs side by side with their Sri Lankan counterparts.

Highlight of the event being Public Event – Hawker’s Street Food Promotion held in different venues annually and expands for a period of three days which is going to be held at “Board Walk’ of Waters Edge, Battaramulla  this year from 05th  to 07th  October 2012.

15 signature chefs from different countries such as India, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Latin American, China, Middle East, Mongolia and Mexica etc.,  are expected to take part in this mega culinary event .

Proposed programme of this year is as follows:

Date Programme
26th Sep. 2012 Media Briefing
04th Oct.2012 Launch
05th to 07th Oct. 2012 Public Event – Hawkers street food promotion
08th to 14th Oct. 2012 World Spice Food Festival Promotion in Hotels and Restaurants
13th Oct. 2012 Closing Ceremony
15th Oct. 2012 Spice Tour for participating foreign Chefs

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Kalpitiya, a leading tourism zone soon


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Sri Lanka tourist arrivals up 9.7-pct in August

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 9.7 percent in August 2012 to 79,456 from a year earlier with Western Europe and East Asian growing but the top market India falling in absolute terms, official data showed.

During the eight months to August, arrivals rose 15.8 percent to 622,661. Sri Lanka is expecting a little over a million visitors this year.Arrivals from Western Europe rose 8.7 percent to 32,656 in August from a year earlier, despite an economic downturn in the region, data from Sri Lanka’s tourist promotion office showed.French tourists rose 31.4 percent to 5,473, German visitors rising 27.5 percent to 6,162 but visitors from UK falling 7.4 percent to 11.558.

Arrivals from Eastern Europe rose 58.4 percent to 3,953 with Russia rising 18.5 percent to 1,345 and Ukraine surging 146 percent to 1,131.

Middle Eastern visitors fell 3.9 percent to 4,950.

Arrivals from East Asia rose 16.9 percent to 11,648 with China up 120 percent to 2,360 and Japan up 12.4 percent to 3,302.

But South Asia grew marginally by 1.3 percent to 16,345 with India, Sri Lanka’s largest generating market falling 12.6 percent to 11,242. Maldives arrivals rose 83.2 percent to 3,533 and visitors from Pakistan rose 18.7 percent to 864.

In the eight months to August Indian arrivals were up only 1.0 percent to 108,232. During the first eight months of 2011 Indian visitors were up 45 percent to 107,201. In August 2011 alone Indian visitors rose 38.9 to 12,857.India became Sri Lanka’s top tourism generating market after visa restrictions were lifted by Sri Lankaabout a decade ago, restoring freedoms that existed before Western practices aimed at reducing human freedoms were imported to the region.Sri Lanka re-introduced visas for Indian visitors at the beginning of this year, as visa on arrival facility for many countries were ended amid rising nationalism in the island despite the end of a 30-year war.

The electronic travel authorization process has eased the entry for citizens of some countries by eliminating paper work and cutting processing time.

India’s rupee has also weakened, making overseas travel more expensive, though Sri Lanka’s rupee has also fallen about 16 percent over the past several months.

Unlike the Association of South Asian Nations which created a visa free region triggering a tourism and aviation boom, the South Asia Association of Regional Co-operation has not been able to provide significant freedoms to the region’s citizens.

Sri Lanka however unilaterally lifted visas for Indian visitors about decade ago, with officials also persuading India to allow private Indian carriers to fly to the island, in a ground breaking regional liberalization of aviation.

Visas came into wide use after World War II ending centuries of travel and immigration freedoms enjoyed by human beings around the world.

Ironically, countries which pioneered the imposition travel restrictions in Europe have now created a visa free region as part of restoring the four freedoms -good, capital, service, and people – that were lost due to rising nationalism, fascism and socialism in the region.

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Sri Lanka Citrus leisure group to sell time-share villas

Citrus Kalpitiya, a unit of Sri Lanka‘s Citrus Leisure group said it will build 32 villas bordering a lagoon in the Indian Ocean Island’s western coast to be sold on 99-year leases with an offer to manage on a time-share basis.

The firm is also planning a hotel in 78 acres of land it has in Kalpitiya, an area made up of a peninsula and lagoon, north of Sri Lanka’ capital Colombo.The firm said it had acquired 35 acres for 67 million and secured another 42 acres on a 99-year lease from a company called Asia Sports Management Private Limited.

“Under the first stage, we plan to build 32 upmarket villas that overlook the 50-meter wide fresh water way,” the group said in its annual report.

“Each villa, spread over 40 perches of land, is custom designed for owners with space to entertain on the property.

“The villas will have their own gondola to allow residents to access the sea. We hope to sell the villas on a 99-year lease and give owners the option of allowing us to manage on a time share basis.”

‘Time share’ is a concept where a person can ‘purchase’ the use of a hotel room or property in the same period in each year (such as a week) over the lifetime of the property (such as 25 or 30 years). They can use it or have it rented to other holidaymakers to get some income.

In a typical property, times shares in peak seasons where the rooms are easily occupied has a higher value than a low season time share. The holder of one time share could swap it with another in one year and vacation in a different location or country.

Time shares can also be sold when a secondary market develops and their value can fluctuate over time.

Thought time share has attracted an unsavory reputation in some countries due to deceptive or high pressure selling tactics, and promises of secondary markets that do not exist in reality, in well regulated markets have developed in countries like the US they have become popular.

A hotel which will be the second stage in the Citrus Kalpitiya project, will overlook the sea on a one kilometer beachfront and will have 24 individual chalets and 126 resort-style rooms, Citrus Leisure said. It is designed by architect Murad Ismail.

The firm said has been earmarked as a future tourist zone, land bordering the lagoon or the sea, blocked off for the hospitality industry.

“The area is also popular to spot whales or schools of dolphins, within a short distance from the Mainland,” the firm said.

“Kalpitiya is also strategically located close to the Wilpattu, wildlife sanctuary that is home to leopards, elephants, the sloth bear and many species of birds.”


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Projecting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination

The Sri Lanka embassy in the Russian Federation received a special evaluation award at the Sri Lanka Tourism Awards 2011 ceremony held recently in recognition of the services it had rendered in promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination among Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan tourists. Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Russia Udayanga Weeratunge in an interview with ANCL (Lake House) Director (Operation) Upul Dissanayake explained the popularity Sri Lanka has gained among foreign tourists as a tourist destination and the manner in which the country should redouble efforts in achieving the government’s target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016.

Excerpts of the interview:

Although Sri Lanka was popular among the Russian people during the past several decades, we had not been able to introduce Sri Lanka as a tourist destination to them. Although there were air links between Moscow and Colombo during the time of the Soviet Union, our objectives as regards the tourist industry were not fulfilled through Russian tourists. Russians were not conspicuous among tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

Changing situation

We were able to change the situation during the past few years. Since I was appointed Ambassador, my prime objective was to increase the inflow of Russian tourists for Sri Lanka. For this, I introduced a systematic plan. Apart from participation in Tourism exhibitions in Russia, our Embassy organized tourism workshops, seminars, photographic exhibitions, film shows and host of other activities.

Foremost among them was bringing journalists and electronic media persons on visits to Sri Lanka to produce reports, documentaries and films about Sri Lanka and getting them published in Russian newspapers and television channels. I was able to get them produced free. So far, 53 short films have been shown on Russian and Ukrainian channels on my own initiative. There was no financial burden on Sri Lanka. This enabled us to showcase the true situation in Sri Lanka and its places of scenic beauty.

We were able to produce two CDs on travel details in the Russian language and distribute them free among Russian tourist guides and Tourist institutes. We were able to produce a 300 page colour souvenir including pictures of Sri Lankan Tourist hotels and destinations in the Russian language using the latest technology. When it was presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we got instructions to publish it English too and we hope to accomplish it within a month.

At the beginning, we did not receive the help and support as a state institution for some reasons. But we did not allow such indifference to impede our resolve to take our programmes forward for the sake of the development of the tourism industry. We have to work with all countries in the world if we are to achieve our target of 2.5 million tourists in 2016. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan occupy a prominent place among them. Nearly 11 million Russian tourists visit other countries annually.

If we can bring at least one percent of them to Sri Lanka, it would contribute towards achieving the aim.

As an Embassy, we cannot achieve this objective single handed. Although we receive the backing of the Economic Development Ministry, we need the assistance of the Private Sector too towards it.

Private sector mediation

The State and Private sector should join hands in promoting the tourism industry. The Private sector should come forward and assist us at this moment without criticizing the Embassies or the government. The best example of this non co-operation was the difficulty we encountered in obtaining the data about hotels for our souvenir. I had to personally intervene at times to get this data. The private sector should realize that it was they who realize the ultimate dividends and benefits from the promotional activities conducted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Board in league with Sri Lankan embassies. Two different strategies are needed in promoting local and foreign tourists. If the private sector gets involved with Sri Lankan Embassies abroad in promoting tourism in the respective countries it would bring about efficiency and reduction in the capital outlay to a great extent.

Government efforts to develop the country’s infrastructure facilities should be lauded. This will help bring more tourists to the country. These infrastructure development programmes would help introduce beautiful beaches in Kalpitiya, Pasikudah and Kuchchuveli to tourists.

Cultural tourism

We can make the country a good tourist attraction by improving the conditions of tourist resorts and identifying and catering to other tourist needs. This is one weakness in certain tourist hotels. Although there are a large number of Russian tourists in certain hotels, they do not have even a single employee fluent in the Russian language or menus printed in Russian for the convenience of Russian tourists.

Three years ago, our embassy provided free translations in Russian to many tourist hotels. We can capture the hearts of tourists by providing services in their own language.

The Tourism Promotion Ministry should take measures to improve the quality and competency of tourist guides. The construction of the new airport at Mattala in Hambantota will help develop that area as a tourism zone.

We should try to promote cultural tourism by paying attention on places of historical significance, places of worship and historic cities and introduce them to tourists. We are now in the process of producing a new CD on tourism for Russian tourists to replace the CD introduced four years ago.

During my tenure of office, the annual inflow of Russian tourists has increased from 5,000 to 23,000. This year, there had been a 56 percent growth in Russian tourist arrivals from January to July in comparison to the corresponding period last year. There had been a 107 percent increase in Ukrainian tourist arrivals.

Following representations we made to the Sri Lankan government and the Russian government, Sri Lankan Airlines started Moscow-Colombo flights from September last year. Following a request made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Ukraine, a direct air flight has been started by Ukraine between Kiev and Colombo.

This helped increase Ukraine tourist arrivals to 11,700 last year. Our endeavour is to increase this to 22,000 this year.

I request the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the private sector to pay more attention towards Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in their promotional activities because tourists from these countries are considered to be high spending tourists.


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Sri Lanka, Maldives to sign MoU on tourism

Shirajiv Sirimane in the Maldives

Sri Lanka chefs from resorts participating in the Culinary Challenge
Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe

Sri Lanka and the Maldives would sign a joint MoU to market the two countries as one destination for tourism. Maldives Minister of Economic Development speaking to Daily News at the opening ceremony of the 8th Hotel Asia Exhibition here, said that the long proposed MoU was now very much on the table now. “Talks in this regard were followed up with Maldivian Minister of Tourism Ahamed Mohamed and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa recently in Colombo.”

He said that the idea was to promote beaches and diving in Maldives, while promoting culture and other activities in Sri Lanka. He said that the move would help increase arrivals to both countries and the ‘tourists’ would get more value for their money. He said that tourism played and important role for the Maldives economy contributing 30 % to the GDP, accounting to over 50 % of the government revenue and providing employment to over 25 % of the Maldivians.

“We are looking at new strategies to market tourism and are looking at the one million arrival market this year.” He said that they would also look at putting forward a proposal to woo foreign investors for both countries.

“This too would be a joint exercise.” He also disclosed that plans were underway to increase Maldivian Airline frequencies to Colombo, Mumbai and Decca and a new A 320 aircraft would be acquired this October. Commenting on the three day 8th edition of Hotel Asia 2012 Exhibition & International Culinary Challenge at the Dharubaaruge Exhibition Hall, he said that it had now become the largest gathering of the hospitality industry in the Maldives. “It is also one of the most looked forward to events of the Nation.”

The event organized by the Maldives Exhibition & Conference Services (MECS), saw an influx of the hospitality sector service providers spanning 40 different countries across the globe with around 200 participants.

Imran Hassan, Director LECS, believes that this year’s event would break new grounds in the Maldives hospitality industry. He said that when they started the event with just 16 stalls, it was the first international exhibition ever hosted by the Maldives and was the trend setter for 10 additional events to come up.“The culinary challenge had also drawn many of the top resorts and chefs making it on par with many world class events,” he said. The Culinary Challenge which is one of the main attractions of the event, would witness around 400 competitors vying for the coveted honours representing over 40 resorts.

“We have new resorts participating, including many world renowned chains and this would provide the best opportunity to showcase their skills and competency,” said Project Director of the Culinary Challenge and world renowned chef Alan Palmer.

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