Archive for June, 2015

Tourism’s informal sector touching 50% at 7.3 m guest nights

In the backdrop of 2014 registering 15.1 million guest nights with tourism receipts recording $2.2 billion, the informal sector is recording a staggering 7.3 million guest nights, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala. Athukoralanoted that this figure is almost touching the 50% mark as per the analysis done by JB Securities.
He asserted that it would growfurthergiven the explosion of online booking companies and more travellers wanting to book online, addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Guides Association of Sri Lanka as Chief Guest.

“Given the strong growth seen in the informal sector, the free independent travellers segment will constitute a large segment of tourism that will need professional guides for special products on the Sri Lankan tourism mix,” asserted Athukorala, “be it the 350-500 pod of whales seen off the seas of Kalpitiya by whale watching experts like Andrew Statton in March 2015 or the architectural masterpiece of urban planning seen thousands of years ago by way of the Sigiriya Fortress.”

“We need a private sector model that can attract a minimum of a billion dollars given that many other global attractions fetch 10 to 15 billion dollars. We must integrate the tourist arrivals to the overall economic impact if we are to do justice to the growing numbers in the tourism industry,” he said. Overall tourism numbers are registering 14.5% growth in the first five months of 2015, with overall tourism receipts crossing $1billion dollars as per the Central Bank whilst the BOI confirmed that leisure approvals as at end May was Rs. 4.1 billion.

JB Securities insights into the informal sector at almost 50% explains the consumption patterns of tourists that the formal sector will have to address, said Athukorala. “When Sri Lanka gets in place a global communication partnerin two months, we must then focus on quality tourism rather than just numbers.”

Source :–at-7-3-m-guest-nights


Sri Lanka Tourism beats 52 countries to win top award at global travel fair KOTFA


Sri Lanka Tourism beat 52 other countries to win the ‘Best Tourism Publicity Award 2015’ at the Korea World Travel Fair (KOFTA). The travel fair, which was attended by Sri Lanka Tourism officials together with 15 private sector industry professionals, was said to have attracted 66,516 visitors in its latest edition in Seoul, Korea.

“It’s an award for the 15 Sri Lankan’s who braved the MERS virus to promote the country above self, which is a rare honour. We have seen the industry doing same in the last 25 years during the war and must be commended,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Rohantha Athukorala stated in reference to an on-going outbreak of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) which has so far claimed 31 lives resulting in strict quarantine measures being adopted to combat the epidemic.

Featured attractions at the Sri Lankan pavilion this year were a Korean couple dressed in traditional Sri Lankan wedding attire in addition to other attractions featuring single origin Ceylon Tea from Nuwara Eliya.  “Once a global advertising agency comes to play we can embark on brand imagery development activity which is more important for a typical destination marketing task than just the ‘Sales Push’ we do at trade fairs,” Athukorala added.  According to the SLTPB other accolades bestowed on Sri Lanka Tourism include awards at Berlin’s ITB, India’s OTM and others in China.

Meanwhile, arrivals figures were said to have grown 14.5% Year-on-Year (YoY) to reach 714,584 in May 2015 while tourist earnings were reported to have crossed the $ 1 billion mark, according to Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) data. Additionally, the leisure sector also secured Rs. 4.1 billion in Foreign Direct Investment according to Board of Investment (BOI) figures.

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The Steuart by Citrus opens

  • Colombo’s first and only luxurious business boutique hotel with a Scottish heritage


Minister of Tourism and Sports Navin Dissanayake unveils The Steuart by Citrus in the presence of (From left) Dilith Jayaweera, Chairman, George Steuarts and Co and Director, Citrus Leisure PLC; Prema Cooray, Chairman, Citrus Leisure PLC and Somasundaram Skandakumar, Former Chairman, George Steuart and Co.


The Steuart by Citrus, a luxurious business boutique hotel in the heart of Colombo’s commercial hub,was declared open on Friday at a grand ceremony held under the auspices of Minister of Tourism and Sports Navin Dissanayakeamidst a large gathering of dignitaries, well-wishers and hospitality industry personalities.
The Steuartis the newest member of the Citrus chain of hotels and will be managed by the Citrus Leisure subsidiary, Citrus Silver.

The Steuart, housed in the iconic headquarters of the 180-year-old conglomerate George Steuart& Co., draws thematic inspiration from the Scottish heritage of its ancestors. The Steuart by Citrus will operate 50 spacious rooms spread among eight floors, including a lavishly appointed luxury suite.

The hotel will also operate an authentic Scottish-themed pub called ‘&Co’ serving delicious, traditional Scottish fare.
The Steuart offers many amenities for business, with its business centre capable of hosting formal meetings and presentations and backed by a dedicated support team.The fully-equipped business meeting room is in fact a refurbished version of the original boardroom from the 19th century.

Steeped in history, the building known as Steuart House was among the first high rise buildings in Colombo. The legacy of the Steuart brothers permeates throughout the hotel, with reminders of 180 years of history scattered throughout the hallowed building.  These include a large collection of invaluable antiques and memorabilia, including the original journals kept by James Steuart and the Grinlinton Chair, previously used by HRH The Duke of Gloucestor and presented to the then Chairman of George Steuarts by the European staff of the company to mark its centenary year in 1935.

In homage to its Scottish founders, The Steuart thus draws design inspiration from Scotland; the interiors will stay true to Scottish design elements across its livery, furnishing and finishes. Commenting on the foreseen success of the hotel, The Steuart by Citrus Chief Executive Officer Sasha Dayal said: “Having served at many renowned international restaurant chains, it is indeed a great pleasure to be given this opportunity to manage one of the most extravagant hotels in Colombo, that has been designed to offer an unique experience coupled with traditional Scottish charm and true Sri Lankan hospitality. We are looking forward to providing an unforgettable experience where guests could indulge in a wide array of local/international delicacies and beverages while enjoying the serene and elegant atmosphere infused with Scottish charm.” He also stated that The Steuart’s offering of rooms, amenities and services is on par with most major hotels in Sri Lanka and with his experience and knowledge of different cultures and customs, he would drive The Steuart by Citrus towards becoming the most sought after destination in Colombo.

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Sri Lanka Tourism wins KOTFA ‘Best Tourism Publicity Award 2015’

Sri Lanka Tourism braved the threat of MERS together with 15 tourism professionals from the private sector to attend one of the leading global travel fairs in Asia Pacific – Korea World Travel Fair (KOTFA) – that was staged in Seoul, South Korea. With 52 countries competing entrenched for the converted award, Sri Lanka Tourism did the country proud by winning the top award ‘Best Tourism Publicity Award -2015’, which attracted 66,516 visitors in the 2015 edition.

Sri Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said it’s an award for the 15 Sri Lankans who braved the MERS virus to promote the country above self, which is a rare honour. We have seen the industry doing the same in the last 25 years during the war and must be commended, he voiced.

The Korean national couple dressed in traditional Sri Lankan wedding dresses was an eye-catching attraction at the Sri Lanka Pavilion that also served the single origin Ceylon tea from the tea garden of the world – Nuwara Eliya that won the hearts of a typical South Korean potential traveller.

Athukorala went on to say. “Once a global advertising agency comes to play we can embark on brand image development activity, which is more important for a typical destination marketing task than just the ‘sales push’ we do at trade fairs.

Sri Lanka Tourism has won many accolades in the last four months that included ITB in Berlin, OTM in India and many awards in China. Overall numbers are at a commanding 14.5 percent growth at 714,584 as at May 2015 with overall tourism receipts crossing the US $ 1 billion mark as per the Central Bank data. The overall momentum in the leisure sector was strong at Rs.4.1 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) that was signed as per the release of the Board of Investment (BoI).”

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Sri Lanka Tourism gearing up for new marketing push

Athukorala assures de-politicisation of SLTPB, professional approach to marketing

29 marketing professionals hired; appointments of advertising, public relations and digital marketing agencies to follow
Good work done under previous regime compromised by poor governance
Unpaid promotions bills in China spark protests outside
Sri Lankan Embassy
Current push strategy insufficient to build
Sri Lankan brand image

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) announced plans to strengthen its marketing capacity through a recruitment drive and appointment of an international advertising agency. Speaking at a graduation ceremony for career diplomats to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala stated that 29 marketing professionals had already been appointed to the bureau under the direction of Tourism and Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake, reiterating that such appointments had been purely on merit.  Elaborating on further efforts being taken to improve Sri Lanka’s tourism branding, Athukorala stated that new advertising, public relations and digital marketing agencies would also have to be appointed prior to undertaking a more concerted promotions campaign.  “Currently it is like we are going to war without a proper armoury. Merely attending trade fairs, inviting journalists and engaging travel agents to come to Sri Lanka might generate the numbers but it does not build imagery and brand equity in targeted travellers.

“There must be a healthy balance between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies. We have been skewed towards a ‘push strategy’ for the last four months. To be honest, I feel sad for Sri Lanka Tourism where the private sector has invested billions of rupees on infrastructure whilst global brand building has not happened in a balanced manner but that’s the reality. But I commit to you that I will make the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau the best destination marketing unit in the world,” he assured.  Meanwhile, commenting on allegations of financial misappropriation to the tune of Rs. 750 million in the bureau under the previous regime, Athukorala acknowledged that certain positive steps had been taken to develop Sri Lankan tourism, particularly in terms of promotions in the fast-growing Chinese market in the past, but argued that unpaid bills and poor governance had nevertheless taken the shine off such positive initiatives.

“Last Saturday we had suppliers banging on the entrance to Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing in protest of overdue payments. We are now trying to reconcile the situation and neutralise it before the world’s largest travel fair begins in Beijing next week. There is a threat that a banner will be put up by the suppliers who are demanding their dues.

“Amidst all this chaos I salute the current heads of marketing at SLTPB for driving the ‘push strategy’ in our current markets. It has not been easy working without a permanent finance director, given that the previous director had his passport impounded due to governance concerns, which means a contract renewal for him will not be taking place. I therefore commend the work they have done over the last few years,” Athukorala stated.

In that context, he noted that a “top official” from the Ministry of Finance had been selected to fill the current vacancy.  “I see a light at the end of this tunnel. I together with the Board of Directors will work to make the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau one of the best destination marketing government entities in the world. To do this the private sector needs to have patience with us for another three to four months, given that it has already waited six years to put in a private sector savvy operating model,” Athukorala asserted.

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Hospitality and taste of Vanni for A9 travellers


Hospitality and Taste of Vanni Soil

Entrepreneurial members of the Mankulam Women Rural Development Society have opened a travellers’ rest stop with the aim of providing quality food, hygienic toilet facilities and one stop shop for tourist’ to buy native products. With the opening of the rest stop, A9 travellers have the opportunity to refresh with the hospitality and taste of the Vanni.

The travellers’ rest stop is equipped to provide fresh juice and hot drinks (tea and coffee) using fresh fruits and milk from the area; to serve traditional food with healthy ingredients and recipes from the Vanni region; clean toilets separated for male and female as well as handicapped accessible; a handicraft sales centre selling various handicraft items made from palmyrah, coconut shell, etc. and local products such as honey, dry fish, pickles, fruits, pulses and other local products. Furthermore, travellers have the opportunity to witness and experience Artisans craftsmanship in making handicraft on the spot and buy from them.

The Mankulam Women’s Rural Development Society (MWRDS) was originally established in 1984. Living in one of the worst conflict-affected areas, the women were often caught in the midst of battle, lost many family members and were displaced several times. In 2014, with the interest of providing a durable livelihood solution and new lease of life to the members of the community including widows, the MWRDS founded the Vanni Resource Self Development Organization Guaranteed Ltd. (VaReSDO Gte. Ltd.).

VaReSDO Gte. Ltd. established the travellers’ rest stop and handicraft sale centre in Mankulam. This rest stop is situated about one km from the Mankulam junction towards Kilinochchi, along the A9 highway between the railway track and the highway
The establishment of the rest stop was financially supported by USAID through Vega/BIZ+ program, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) and the Palmyra Development Board. Technical support was provided by the International Non-Governmental Organization Swiss Labour Assistance (SAH).

The rest stop will be a marketing centre and increase the income opportunities for the community. Around 50 women benefit directly while another 30 or more community members engaged in agriculture or handicraft benefit from a higher demand for their products and a new market place.  The official opening event was held on 22 June at 3 p.m.

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Air India connects Colombo and Delhi with a non-stop flight

Heralding a new era in aviation and tourism between the two neighbouring countries, India’s national carrier Air India launched a direct, nonstop flight on the Colombo-Delhi-Colombo route.

Flight AI 276 from Colombo will depart for Delhi at 0820 hours, arriving Delhi at 1205 hours. The return flight AI 275 from Delhi will leave at 1200 hours and reach Colombo at 1535 hours except on Wednesdays when the flight will leave Delhi at 1330 hours and reach Colombo at 1715 hours.

Speaking at the press briefing Air India Commercial Director Pankaj Srivastava said, “This is going to be a daily flight. Every day there’s same time departure except on Wednesdays where due to operational reasons we have to reschedule the departure from Delhi by an hour and a half.”

Delhi being the hub for Air India, will provide passengers from Sri Lanka, connections to flights of Air India and other Star Alliance member airlines to Europe, the USA, Far East and Australia. Likewise, passengers arriving from these international destinations will get a convenient connection to Sri Lanka on this new flight.

“We are very happy to announce this particular connection is made in a such a way the passengers from Colombo can actually use the Delhi hub and connect on to most of the European flights because most of the Europeans flights to Delhi operate only in the afternoon and this flight arrives in Delhi at around 12 noon, which provides connection to all the European destinations and likewise all the European flights are coming to Delhi in the morning and that will provide connection to these flights to Colombo,” he added.

In addition, the new flights to Delhi will also provide immediate connections to many domestic destinations in India where Air India has introduced competitive fares.

Speaking to Mirror Business, Indian Cricketer Robin Uthappa, who is an employee of Air India, said he is delighted to be part of this event.

“They (Air India) are my employers, basically I know them for seven to eight years now. Most of the time I have been playing cricket and really don’t get time to go to the office as we have to play 11 months a year. So whenever if we can give them something this is the way to give them back, so very happy to come down here to be part of this,” he said.

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