Archive for July, 2013

CHOGM: Colombo, London in war of words

CHOGM:  Colombo, London in war of words


What’s good for Perth not good for Colombo?

A war of words has erupted between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Task Force Secretariat for CHOGM 2013 scheduled in Colombo.  In an unprecedented move, Official Spokesperson and Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat Richard Uku has issued a ‘clarification’ regarding media accreditation, reiterating relevant Secretariat guidelines and emphasizing that ‘the Commonwealth Secretariat is the final authority for all international media accreditation for CHOGM’.

In response, the Task Force in Colombo issued a media release reiterating its version of the accreditation process.  The release, signed by Chairman, Sub-Committee on Media/Publicity/ICT Charitha Herath, underlines the following: ‘The Terms and Conditions outlined in the online registration site are identical to the Terms and Conditions used during CHOGM 2011 in Perth, Australia’.

The slew of missives comes in the context of virulently individuals who comment on Sri Lankan affairs such as Callum Macrae (director of ‘No Fire Zone: Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’) and Frances Harrison (author of ‘Still Counting the Dead’) expressing concerns about not being accredited to ‘cover’ the event.
Uku’s ‘clarification’ while acknowledging ‘host country collaboration’ appears to allay such fears.  The need to reiterate guidelines imply that Uku felt Colombo has or was seeking to trump them in order to deny accreditation to the likes of Macrae and Harrison, whose works have been rubbished by top-ranking members of the Government. Herath’s reference to the fact that Colombo was using the Perth document, almost word for word, raises questions over the Secretariat’s neutrality and more seriously whether Uku has a hidden and racist agenda with respect to Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka to count sloth bears

Sri Lanka’s wild life conservation authorities and a biodiversity organization, with funding from private business will count and estimate a sloth bear population in a national park in the North West of the island.

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said under its Sri Lanka Business and Biodiversity Platform, CIC Holdings a private firm will fund the research.

It will be carried out by Sri Lanka‘s Department of Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity Education and Research (BEAR), a conservation organization.

The study will evaluate the population density and composition of bears.

“With the use of camera traps and bear footprint data, individual bears will be identified and analysis carried out to determine their habitat needs,” the Ceylon Chamber said in a statement.

“The information generated through this study could be applied island-wide in subsequent conservation efforts.”

Sloth bears were threatened by habitat destruction and also from targeted killing, due to peoples’ perception of it as a threat. However anecdotal evidence suggested that there was a healthy population within the park.

The chamber said in a statement that the sloth bear sighting have declined in recent years and the animal is listed as endangered (EN) in the National Red List 2012 of Sri Lanka by the International Conservation Union.

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More Sri Lankans looking to book domestic holidays online: survey

About 23 percent of domestic holidaymakers in Sri Lanka are booking hotels online and up to 85 percent were considering internet booking for their next holiday, according to survey on travel planning.
BQu Services, an online marketing and research firm that conducted the survey said 85 percent of holidaymakers said they would book online if the credibility and reliability of the websites were higher.”[I]it would be important for website owners to reassure people more about their services, and also provide easy access to a human being at the point of decision making,” the company said.

BQu Services said Sri Lanka‘s email penetration was over three million and there were over 1.2 million Facebook users.

About 75 percent of respondents to the company’s ‘Domestic Holiday Planning Survey, Sri Lanka, March 2013’ had travelled more than twice a year to domestic travel destinations.

Only 6 percent booked domestic holidays through a travel agent and 70 percent used the telephone. was the most preferred booking engine.

Online booking has also transformed international travel.


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Gaming can be a $ 1 b industry with tourism upside: Analysts

With existing players getting aggressive and new brands being lured in, the gaming scene in Sri Lanka has the potential to expand to a billion dollar industry from its current fledgling status, especially with an upside in the tourism and leisure markets, according to analysts.
For the past 15 years there are four casinos being operated by formal players in the country who pay Rs. 100 million per location per annum. They are Bally’s, Bellagio, MGM and Stardust, with the latter also having a VIP area called Marina. As per a 2011 Budget proposal, the then existing operators were required to incorporate companies by 2013 in a move to formalise their businesses.
The operators are also subject to 40% corporate income tax from 2012 onwards in addition to 5% turnover tax. These separate gaming places also employ around 400 people each.

Industry analysts estimate the present revenue from the fledgling gaming industry in Sri Lanka is around $ 50 million. This is minute considering the $ 34 billion raked in by gamers-hot-sport Macau last year and $ 6 billion achieved by Singapore, another relatively new entrant to the industry.  The rapid growth in revenue and profile of both Macau and Singapore has dwarfed the gamers’ iconic location Las Vegas which has annual revenue of only $ 6 billion.
The Philippines, which has gained in popularity as a tourist destination, has also formalised its gaming industry two years ago with the move bringing in better fortunes. For example, prior to a formal arrangement, revenue from the Philippines gaming industry was only $ 400 million per annum but last year it tripled to $ 1.2 billion whilst estimate for this year is around $ 1.6 billion and a target of $ 2 billion by next year.
Closer to home, the offshore gaming opportunity in Goa, India, generates $ 50 million revenues per annum with four special designated cruises operating.

Analysts said that in tandem with the rebound in tourism and leisure activities in post-war Sri Lanka, the scope for gaming to become a billion dollar industry is high.
Existing players have turned aggressive both in terms of offerings and promotion whilst growing interests by top global brands including Crown of James Packer-fame has put Sri Lanka in the radar of casino players.
As evidenced by success of Macau, Singapore and the Philippines, casinos are also a magnate to lure tourists.
Analysts said Sri Lanka emerging as a gaming centre could draw more tourists from India and the Middle East in addition to enticing frequently visiting business travels and tourists on leisure from other destinations.
Packer, who is Australia’s third richest citizen who has partnered with Stardust-fame Ravi Wijeratne, is currently negotiating for what is described as “an integrated resort” of 400 rooms and other facilities with an investment of $ 350 million whilst premier blue chip John Keells Holdings’ $ 650 million investment in Glennie Street, Colombo 2 is also for an integrated resort with a five star of 900 rooms.
Business leader Dhammika Perera, who has roots in the gaming industry, according to analysts is also planning a separate mega project down D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha.
Given the profile of these projects, the synergies between tourism, leisure, entertainment sector and the gaming industry can be significant.
However analysts noted that with the expected upturn, Sri Lanka needs to have a more formalised regime for casinos. One is proper legislation by expanding the Betting and Gaming Act, clear cut rules and regulations as well as a proper regulator.


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