Archive for January, 2016

Emirates flies high in SL; announces fifth daily service to Colombo

Emirates has reaffirmed its commitment to Sri Lanka by introducing an additional daily service between Dubai and Colombo.

Effective 1 August, Emirates will operate five daily flights between Dubai and Colombo every day except Wednesdays when it will operate four flights. The additional frequency will enhance the weekly services on the route to 34.

“Colombo is a very popular destination for both business and leisure travellers, and is a convenient gateway to Sri Lanka’s idyllic beaches, picturesque countryside and nature reserves.


The increased frequency provides our customers with greater flexibility in their travel plans, allowing them to explore this exciting destination and connect seamlessly to other flights on Emirates’ extensive global network,” said, Emirates’ Sri Lanka & Maldives Area Manager Chandana De Silva.

“For outbound travel from Colombo, the additional daily frequency further enhances connections to the Emirates global network for business and leisure travellers and students. Exporters and importers in particular will benefit from the increased cargo capacity on the route and the increased connections to global markets beyond Dubai.”

Passengers on Emirates flights enjoy the famed hospitality of its multi-national Cabin Crew, which includes more than 150 Sri Lankans, as well as gourmet cuisine and Emirates’ award-winning ICE entertainment system. With more than 2,200 channels, from movies, television programs, games, audio books, and music, ICE has been named the world’s best inflight entertainment system by Skytrax for 11 consecutive years.

From 1  August, Flight EK648, operated by a modern Boeing 777-300 ER, will depart Dubai at 1355 hours daily and arrive in Colombo at 1955 hours, all times local. The return flight EK649 leaves Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at 2210 hours and arrives in Dubai at 0100 hours the following day.

As with all Emirates flights, passengers on the new flight will benefit from a generous baggage allowance of 30kg in Economy Class, 40kg in Business Class and 50 kg in First Class. Passengers travelling in premium cabins will also enjoy lounge access as well as Emirates’ Chauffeur-drive service.

Travel with Emirates also earns passengers Skywards Miles on the airline’s award-winning frequent flyer program. Accrued Skywards Miles can be redeemed for free tickets, travel upgrades or other benefits.

Emirates commenced operations to Sri Lanka in April 1986, connecting the country to an ever-expanding global network of destinations, now numbering 150. The award-winning airline, the largest in the world, currently operates four flights a day between Dubai and Colombo all days of the week except Wednesdays, when it operates three flights.  One of these daily services to Dubai is via Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Emirates also operates a daily service between Colombo and Singapore, offering convenient connections to Australia.

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Aitken Spence to buy hotel in Oman

Leading blue-chip conglomerate Aitken Spence is in the green to purchase Al Falaj Hotel in Oman, which it had managed up to now, for 14 million Omani rials, foreign news reports said.

According to Oman-based Muscat Daily, the shareholders of Oman Hotels and Tourism Co. held an Extraordinary General Meeting on Sunday and unanimously approved the sale of the hotel’s assets and business to Aitken Spence Resorts (Middle East). Oman Hotels first received a ‘nonbinding offer’ for Al Falaj Hotel in October 2015 and the board of directors gave its ‘in principle’ approval to the offer.

The company then said that this ‘in principle’ acceptance was subject t o successful completion of requisite legal and financial due diligence by the prospective buyer culminating in a binding offer and on agreement of an appropriate transaction structure. Aitken Spence Hotels manages Oman Hotels’ entire portfolio, which include Al Falaj Hotel and Ruwi Hotel in Muscat, Al Wadi Hotel in Sohar, Sur Plaza Hotel in Sur and the luxury Desert Nights Camp in Sharqiyah Sands, which represents its entire presence in hospitality in the country.

Oman and Emirates Investment Holding Co, which holds a 31.2 percent stake in Oman Hotels, confirmed the deal.

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Waters Edge in Rs 13 bn mega hotel project

Waters Edge Chairman Chamath De Silva.(Top) An artistic sketch of the proposed hotel at Waters Edge. Pictures by Saliya Rupasinghe

Waters Edge Private Ltd owned and operated by Urban Development Authority (UDA) will invest Rs. 13 billion to build a five star hotel and apartment complex.

This is the biggest hotel project to be constructed in Sri Lanka with local funding this year. The introduction of the hotel will also make the venue a one stop shop for Meeting Incentive Conference and Exhibitions (MICE).

The hotel will have 186 rooms and 225 apartments and will be built at the Waters Edge venue in Battaramulla.

Waters Edge Chairman Chamath De Silva said that a unique feature of this complex will be that the government will not have to invest any money for it. The UDA is expected to call for local and international tenders to build this hotel.

“We will raise the entre capital of for the complex by selling apartments.” However the management will borrow Rs. 6 billion to maintain the cash flow for the project.

DeSilva said the Waters Edge will also build a modern sports complex in similar fashion in an adjoining land of 12 acres.

“This will cater to 18 sports and here again it would be built by the private sector,” he added. He said that the Waters Edge also earned a record Rs. 200 million net profit for 2015. “We are aiming for a Rs, 1.3 billion revenue and a profit of Rs. 230 million for 2016.”

The institution which was taken over by the government subsequent to a court order in 2005, from a private entrepreneur is planning to go paperless from 2017.

In addition we also hope to diversify to entertainment and recreation to meet the future demands of the country. The management is also looking at introducing a special Sri Lankan dish with global acceptance similar to Kentucky Chicken and Pizza. “We have hired a special Research and Development arm for this and will invest around Rs. 10 million to meet this goal.”

The Water’s Edge also boasts of a sea plane landing facility, a pontoon to cater to 40 guests, many specialty restaurants and a large garden area for dining and hosting parties and weddings and many other facilities which helps the property to be marketed as a high end resort.

Today it has seven restaurants and seven banquets halls and is also building a business hotel in Colombo Fort which is expected to be opened in 2016.

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East Coast tourism infrastructure to be improved


Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs,  John Amaratunga on a fact finding tour of Arugam Bay on Tuesday. The Minister was accompanied by Member of Parliament, Ali Zaheer Moulana

Tourism infrastructure in Passikudah and Arugam Bay will receive a facelift following an inspection tour of the east coast by Tourism Development Minister, John Amaratunga last week.

The long neglected east coast has seen renewed interest in recent times with the opening up of many luxury hotels especially in Passikudah and Arugam Bay. Well established local hotel chains like Aitken Spence, Amaya, Theme Resorts and Jetwing have opened hotels in these areas, catering to the growing interest in the stunning, unspoilt beaches.

While the potential for tourism continues to grow in this region, one aspect that has not received due attention is the development of local infrastructure to keep pace with the growing number of tourists arriving in the area.

Following numerous requests from hoteliers Minister of Tourism Development, John Amaratunga visited Passikudah, Eravur and Arugam Bay last week on a fact finding tour.

It was revealed during meetings with hoteliers, guest house owners and other industry stakeholders in Passikudah and Arugam Bay that tourism infrastructure required urgent attention. Among the many issues that were brought to the attention of the Minister were the poor quality of water supply, garbage disposal issues, non- maintenance of sewage and rain water drains, poor street lighting, unclean public beaches, issues concerning ownership of premises and operating licenses, and the sharing of resources between the local fishing community and hoteliers.

The meetings were held with the participation ofhoteliers, guest house owners, local government authorities, Tourism Development Authority officials, fishing community representatives, local business chamber representatives and Members of Parliament representing the area. Solutions were found to many of the issues that were brought up during the discussions. Minister Amaratunga instructed the officials that all issues discussed should be resolved in the shortest possible time and a review of the progress will be carried out in a month’s time at the Tourism Ministry.

In a novel case of public and private sector cooperation, the hoteliers in Arugam Bay agreed to a proposal by the Tourism Minister to invest in street lights for the roads while the local authorities agreed to maintain them as a solution to the street lights issue.

“It is unfortunate that up to now no attention has been paid to the problems faced by the tourism industry in these areas. The focus has only been on increasing the number of visitors. We should also look at improving the infrastructure while working towards increasing the numbers. We are very happy that despite the shortcomings there is rapid growth in both the number of tourists and the number of hotels that have come up in this area,” said Tourism Development Minister, John Amaratunga.

Passikudah hoteliers requested the Minister to look in to the possibility of setting up emergency facilities like a fire fighting unit and an ambulance service, both of which are lacking in the area.

Taking in to consideration the high number of tourists visiting Arugam Bay, it was decided to set up a Tourist Information Center and also a Hospitality Training Center. It was also decided to set up a surfing school in Arugam Bay to cater to the many tourists that come to the area for surfing.

“We have been informed that a top level UNWTO conference is to be held in Passikudah in June this year. We have very little time to get things in order. I’m personally interested in seeing that issues faced by the hoteliers are resolved prior to this conference,” said Minister Amaratunga.

“Also the weather in Passikudah in particular and the Eastern coast in general is perfect for tourism all year round. The concept of a season and off season is no longer valid. The Tourism Ministry will work towards promoting this region as a year round destination,” said Minister Amaratunga.

Members of Parliament Ali Zaheer Moulana and S. Yogeswaran were associated with the Minister at the discussion. Among the officials present were Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary, Janaka Sugathadasa, Additional Secretary, Shiranee Weerakoon, Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management Chairman Sunil Dissanayake, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority officials, Senior DIG in charge of the area and the Chairmen of Pradeshiya Sabhas and Urban Councils.


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Sri Lanka stand a major draw at Vakentiebeurs 2016 Tourism Fair

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Embassy in the Netherlands, organised the Sri Lanka Stand at the Vakentiebeurs 2016 Tourism Fair in Utrecht from 12-17 January.

The event proved to be a major attraction for Dutch visitors. With over 1,400 exhibitors, the Vakentiebeurs has emerged as the most important tourism event in the Netherlands since the 1970s. This year around 122,000 visitors attended the fair, compared to 117,000 who arrived last year. The opening day of the fair was devoted exclusively for the trade, with over 18,000 national and international tour operators visiting the fair.

The Netherlands is becoming a growing source market for Sri Lanka, which registered a cumulative growth of 35.3% in arrival numbers of 32,742 last year, as compared to 24,196 in 2014. The Dutch market consists of high-end visitors, which the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the travel industry members are giving greater attention.

The opening ceremony of the Sri Lanka Stand was held on the first day of the fair and graced by the Mayor of Utrecht, Jan Van Zanen, who inaugurated the Stand by lighting the traditional oil lamp along with the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Netherlands, A.M.J. Sadiq, and representatives of Sri Lankan tour companies at the fair.

Sri Lanka has been participating at Vakantiebeurs for over a decade and this year the Sri Lankan presence was themed ‘Eight Experiences – Pristine, Essence, Heritage, Wild, Thrills, Scenic, Festive and Bliss’. The Sri Lanka Stand also featured a tea bar to introduce the world’s first ethically produced tea supplied by the Sri Lanka Tea Board to all visitors to the Stand.

Apart from showcasing Sri Lanka as an attractive tourist destination at this fair, the Sri Lanka Stand set the stage for the participating Sri Lankan tour operators to establish contacts with potential outbound Dutch tour operators, negotiate transactions and reinforce business relationships with existing tour operators handling  Sri Lanka. As this fair was open to the public, the Sri Lankan team was also able to project the diversity of attractions in the country to the large number of visitors who are the future and potential travellers to Sri Lanka.

The following nine tour operators from Sri Lanka participated in this fair, namely Airwing Tours, Andrew the Travel Company,  Ayubowan Tours,  Hawk Travels, Hotel Lanka Super Corals, Lanka  Sportreizen, Ratnaloka Paradise Tours, Sunway Holidays and Zenith Expeditions.

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Tourism Promotion Bureau to host CITES Secretary-General lecture today


The Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), under the guidance of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, will be hosting a lecture by John E. Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), on 25 January at Galle Face Hotel.

The Secretary-General has arrived on the invitation of President Maithripala Sirisena to attend the destruction of blood Ivory event at the Galle Face Green on 26 January on International Customs Day. Sri Lanka Customs in May 2012 seized a stockpile of African elephant tasks (blood ivory) which was being smuggled out of Kenya and was on its way to the international markets via the Port of Colombo. The Customs, after a formal inquiry, confiscated the entire shipment, pending destruction of the ivory in public as per international law.

Accordingly, the event will take place at the Galle Face Green under the patronage of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe with the participation of the Diplomatic Corps and the public. The event is expected to draw international attention and Sri Lanka Tourism hopes to showcase local perspectives on wildlife through art at this event where dozens of painters and sculptors will portray the wildlife of Sri Lanka.

Having the highest biodiversity per 10,000 square km in Asia, Sri Lanka is one of the 25 biodiversity hot spots of the world. Whilst Sri Lanka Tourism is focused on growing wildlife-related tourism, it is important to identify and avoid threats to this industry.

The lecture hosted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is seen as a valuable opportunity to highlight the importance of conserving our fauna and flora and adopting a zero tolerance policy on illegal wildlife trade. The event will also further highlight the collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife to strengthen the country›s tourism offerings in a responsible manner.

«Wildlife is an integral part of our tourism product. Sri Lanka›s rich wildlife, flora and fauna must be protected to ensure the sustainability of our national tourism venture. My ministry will spare no efforts in ensuring the protection of our wildlife through sustainable tourism. The event at Galle Face sends a clear message to the rest of the world about Sri Lanka›s zero tolerance of the ivory trade,» said Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga.

«We are thankful to the Secretary-General of CITES, John Scanlon, who has agreed to conduct a lecture on wildlife-based tourism, which will help draw global attention to our sustainable practices.»

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Amari Havodda Maldives holds festive grand opening in Gaafu Dhaal atoll

The grand opening ceremony of Amari Havodda Maldives was held Thursday 14th January 2016 at the resort in front of a boutique audience of dignitaries and guests.

Various speakers addressed the audience in between entertainment items.

Armagan Günaydin, the managing director of owners Crystal Plaza Resorts, thanked those in attendance. “It doesn’t seem that long ago when I first set foot here and realised that it would be the perfect island for a resort,” he said. “This is a very proud moment for us.”

Peter Henley, CEO of Onyx Hospitality who manage and market the resort, vowed to preserve the resort’s pristine environment. “Some of our most important features can’t be seen. We have smart energy systems island wide and we’re fully committed to sustainability.” He also added that since inception the Amari Brand has been creating memorable experiences that embody the spirit of local cultures, exhibiting local flavours and textures.

The chief guest of the ceremony, the Sri Lankan minister of finance, voiced his pleasure at seeing a Sri Lankan company perform so well. “We are extremely happy that Sri Lankan companies in the Maldives are opening hotels and resorts here,” he said. He also expressed his wish that with Onyx Hospitality and Sri Lankan construction giant Sanken, Sri Lanka would see a surge in tourist arrivals as well.

The Maldives’ Deputy Minister of Tourism Hussain Lirar noted the record arrivals the country had seen last year. He also promised to gain ‘extra mileage’ for the country by promoting it strategically at the world’s best tourism fairs.

The four star Amari Havodda Maldives was completed in fourteen months, a glowing statistic highlighting the efforts of Sanken in building the property. The 120 villa property is a joint venture between Sri Lanka’s Sanken Overseas and Florida based Saudi entrepreneur Laith Pharaon and is managed by hotel management chain Onyx Hospitality.

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