Archive for April, 2016

Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, SriLankan Airlines promote MICE tourism in France and Germany


With the Government emphasising on boosting MICE (Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences and Events) tourism in Sri Lanka with an allocation of a separate budget, the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), which is the sole Government body to promote MICE tourism to Sri Lanka, took part in MEEDEX 2016 MICE trade fair in France and IMEX 2016 MICE trade fair in Germany recently to attract upscale clients into the country.

This is a direct approach to bring in incentive travelers from Europe to Sri Lanka and the bureau’s primary objective was to educate the buyers and the media on Sri Lanka’s massive infrastructural development especially on new locations and products that are on offer for MICE activities.

The Sri Lanka delegation was led by Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Chairman Prema Cooray and the events were also attended by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France Tilak Ranaviraja, Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Germany M. Ranjith Gunaratna, Sri Lanka’s Honorary Consul in Frankfurt Nihal Samarasinha, SriLankan Airlines France Country Manager Danny Schepers and Germany Country Manager Sharuka Wickrama Adittiya along with leading industry members from Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka’s first suites concept upscale biz hotel Ocean Edge Colombo upbeat


From left: Ocean Edge General Manager Tilome Nanayakkara, City Construction Contractors Ltd Director Priyank Gupta and City Construction Contractors Ltd Director Thana B. Sritharan 

Ocean Edge Colombo, the first suites concept upscale business hotel in Sri Lanka, boasts of luxury, convenience and privacy for long-stay travellers, befitting the country’s cosmopolitan capital city. It has been built with an investment of Rs. 2.5 billion. The Daily FT recently met up with City Construction Contractors Ltd. Director Priyank Gupta during his recent visit to Colombo, where he shared insights on this suites hotel concept, flow of travellers to Sri Lanka, demand for the destination, room for improvement and other key areas. Following are the excerpts of the interview.



By Charumini de Silva

Q: What made you select Sri Lanka for this investment?

A: We were looking for opportunities overseas in 2010 and we were looking at several countries. In 2011 we first came to Sri Lanka because there was a lot of buzz happening soon after the war. We felt that there is an opportunity which might take a little longer than what everybody would have thought. We were not looking at short-term projects and but for long-term business. Hospitality was one of the areas we wanted to invest in and we wanted to do a business hotel.

At that time Marine Drive was not developed as today, but with our expertise we were able to foresee that this location would be a hotspot in city of Colombo. I still believe that this would be the most sought after location in Colombo in future as well.

Q: Could you brief about Ocean Edge?

A: The property was originally built for an apartment project and it was almost done in terms of structure and building, but needed some changes to operate as a business hotel. This is a Rs. 2.5 billion investment. We looked at several options such as a normal hotel, and we could have easily done 220 rooms in this property, but we wanted to be different to what others were. Therefore, we created this to a suite hotel for long-stay, business travellers.

We have four types of suites – Panorama, Superior, Delux and Studio which amount to a total of 78, comprising a living area, a bedroom, a kitchen and a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. If you compare it to a normal five-star hotel, we are vertically and horizontally bigger than those rooms, giving more space to the customer with a homely feeling.

The furniture features large storage space because we are essentially looking at business travellers staying over a month. We don’t have any banqueting facilities; it helps the hotels to make money, but for business travellers it is always a disturbance. Hotels worldwide charge travellers for sea view rooms, but 90% of our suites comes with it at the same price.

Q: Are there any special packages?

A: Yes, certainly. We have special packages for long-staying business travellers, which ordinary hotels are not offering. Although we are a suite hotel, we will still be in the range of a five-star hotel room rate, which is a good value for money for business travellers looking at privacy with home-away-from-home luxury.



Q: What’s the occupancy rate you are looking at by the end of the year?

A: Well, we are looking at an average of 70% to 75% by the end of this year. We already have many repeat customers and we are confident of reaching these target.

Q: What is the return on investment you are looking at?

A: We are looking at around 16%.

Q: What further improvements are required to put Sri Lanka out there as a tourism destination?

A: I think Sri Lanka is heading in the right direction, with a slower pace. Probably the pace can be a bit faster, but being an investor you can always say that I’m a little impatient. The Government’s intention is in the right direction. If we can create Colombo as more of a destination, rather than a transit city, it would benefit more.

In the north of India, there is a small town which does three million tourists and the population of the town is only 7,000. It only caters to tourists from Delhi. Sri Lanka has a tourist arrival of 1.6 million and we are trying to do two million. If Sri Lankan can target one of the cities, the growth rate here would be more than 100%; but to do that we need infrastructure and resources, which possibly is coming with the help of private sector as well as the Government.

With the new hotels coming up in Colombo, I think we would become a destination for a lot of foreign travellers. Many people have asked me what would happen once international hotel chains such as Shangri-La and ITC come in. Would there be a surplus? I think it is the other way round; that is when we will see the actual tourism here in Sri Lanka.

The only concern is whether the supportive infrastructure at that point of time would be available in terms of number of flights to Colombo, manpower availability and so on. If the Government and the Tourist Board could provide those facilities, it is a huge possibility that we can make Sri Lanka a tourism hotspot and I think the future will be bright.

Q: Could you elaborate on the trends you see in business travellers and the mix of travellers you’re looking at in future?

A: It’s quite strange. This is a business hotels and we do have business guests, but in the meantime a lot of tourists come and stay with us. This shows that there is a big demand-supply mismatch in the tourist market as well. Traditionally, a tourist will only like to be in a hotel room, while suites are meant for business guests. The response for business travellers is tremendous but we are happy to see other tourists also coming and staying with us.

Q: What can you say about the talent and the skills of the staff?

A: We have around 80 staff at present at Ocean Edge. What I felt as a traveller is that they are of global standard. They are well trained and forthcoming. I’m fortunate to have such a good staff; I can run this operation smoothly because of the ability of my team.

Q: As a foreign investor, what were your expectations?

A: Coming from India, we have huge projects handled by big contractors, but the Sri Lankan contractors surprised me. They were in fact much ahead of Indians in terms of skills and professionalism. Hence, I owe a lot to them and again it is the same with the bankers, without whose cooperation we probably wouldn’t have successfully completed this project. They were very flexible and forthcoming.

Q: Are there any other investment plans in Sri Lanka?

A: We have a lot of opportunities. A lot of people have come to us for our expertise to finish their projects and have invited for joint ventures in the hospitality industry within Colombo. We are looking at opportunities as any business house does and one of them is the power sector.

We looked at power generation three years ago but we were not as motivated as we are now, after the blackout experience recently, because we always thought Sri Lanka was a surplus country. The only challenge in the power sector is that the projects are small and don’t give that critical mass for any foreign investor to come in and invest. We are open for opportunities and will look at them as and when they come.

Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera

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Ukraine International Airlines to fly to Colombo in November

In Winter 2016/2017, Ukraine International Airlines will be operating non-stop scheduled flights between Colombo and Kiev, Ukraine.

Tickets are available on UIA official website, at the carrier’s Contact Centres, UIA ticket offices, and authorised travel agencies.

Starting from 1 November, UIA will offer passengers to take advantage of non-stop scheduled double weekly services between Kiev (KBP – Boryspil International Airport) and Colombo (Bandaranaike International Airport). dtu

The flights will be operated within the year on modern Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with three-class cabin configuration – Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class.

“Sri Lankans are now more variety seeking on tourist destinations. UIA is opening the gateways to new tourist destinations in Ukraine and Western and Eastern Europe. We offer our passengers an extensive range of travel opportunities. In Winter 2016/2017, UIA will operate scheduled flights from Colombo. Therefore, our clients will be able to quickly reach Paris, Amsterdam, Vilnius, Tbilisi, Odessa, Ivano-Frankovsk, Istanbul, Minsk, Tel Aviv, Yerevan and other cities from UIA network,” a spokesperson stated.

UIA offers round trip economy class tickets for Colombo-Kiev flights at the price from Rs. 110,600 (all taxes and surcharges included; subject to currency fluctuations).

UIA is represented by Hemas Aviation Ltd. in Sri Lanka situated at Level 01 – Hemas Building, York Street, Colombo 1. UIA customers may reach it on +94 11 4731556 and email for any assistance.

Detailed information on UIA is available on the website

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Sri Lanka targets high-end tourists from Middle East via ATM 2016

IMG_0315 M2-(3)M2-(11)M2The Arabian Travel Market opened its doors on Monday 25 April for four days of business networking opportunities, insightful seminar sessions, leadership forums, and recognition of 12 months of industry achievement.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, took the honour of opening this grand event providing the opportunity for more than 2500 exhibitors from around the world.

IMG_0316Now in its 23rd year, the 2016 edition, which took off the ground at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre on 25April 2016, ATM welcomed 423 main stand holders representing 86 countries, with more than 26,000 visitors expected to attend the Middle East’s longest running and largest trade event.

Sri Lanka Tourism participated at ATM for the 14th consecutive time.

Minister for Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka for UAE, SLTPB Chairman, SLTPB MD and Market Head for Middle East attended the fair along with 54 industry stakeholders on behalf of Sri Lanka tourism. The press conference arranged by SLTPB took place on 25 May

Tourist arrivals from the Middle East region was at 101,066, a 13.6% increase year-on-year and Sri Lanka envisages continuous growth from this region.


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Sri Lanka Tourism at ATM

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the industry’s leading travel and tourism exhibition within the Middle Eastern and Pan Arab regions. Middle East is identified as one of the main tourist generating markets as per the Sri Lanka Tourism Strategy.

Sri Lanka Tourism has participated at this event since 2003 along with the members of the travel and tourism industry in Sri Lanka and this is the 14th consecutive year of participation at the event with 56 co-exhibiting industry participants.

This fair is an opportunity to grow the market and build relationships with regional tour operators in the Middle East and Arab region.

Arabian Travel Market will be held on 25-28 April at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre/Dubai – UAE. This year, the spotlight theme of the ATM is Family Travel.

The main theme of the Sri Lankan pavilion at the ATM will be wildlife and tea tourism. There will also be a focus on travel technology, business travel, luxury and wellness.


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Sri Lanka attracts more cruise liners

A media release stated that the local cruise industry has since 1980 experienced an average annual passenger growth rate of approximately 7.2 per cent per annum.

Sri Lanka will play host to nearly 33 cruise liners this year which are scheduled to call at local ports, a media release stated recently.

Considering the growth of the cruise tourism, an important niche segment, Sri Lanka Tourism participated at the Seatrade Cruise Global 2016 with three local operators at the Broward Country Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in USA March 14 to 17.

A media release stated that the local cruise industry has since 1980 experienced an average annual passenger growth rate of approximately 7.2 per cent per annum.

The most important characteristics of the Cruise Tourism segment is that: they are a “Luxury” form of “Mass Tourism” with high spending capacity and cruisers are not travellers, not mere tourists and well- travelled all over the world, and they like to explore around the world to get more experience, the release said.

Cruises are relatively high spenders, critical influencers and have the potential to improve tourism multipliers through “word of mouth referral marketing, returning for holidays with “top of the mind recall” as well as generating more economic benefits of significance in the local value chain.

Seatrade Cruise Global is the cruise industry’s premier global event which brings together every facet of the business including cruise lines, suppliers, travel agents and partners.

It is an opportunity to showcase products and services of cruise operations to the cruise industry buyers and decision makers, the release said.

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Iconic venue BMICH offers new contemporary spaces for a wide range of events


The BMICH, one of Colombo’s iconic landmarks recently achieved global status for quality and innovation. The venue stands tall as the perfect solution for a multi-venue setting with a wide range of conference and banqueting spaces which are both flexible and exquisite.

Keen to change the perceived mindset that this unique and prestige venue is more than just an exhibition centre, the BMICH management showcases its contemporary facilities and versatility.

With over 20 different venues, this oasis in the city ensures a flow of spaces to suit the most discerning customer and event organisers, accommodating a variety of events including conferences, meetings, trainings, receptions, gala dinners, cocktails, family and corporate parties, concerts and exhibitions.

BMICH Manager Events and Reservations Mahesh Amarasinghe commenting on the venue’s wide reaching plans said, “We have succeeded in changing the mindset of Sri Lankans that we are not only a venue for conferences and exhibitions. As an iconic venue in Sri Lanka we have significant selling points and can host any event including seminars, weddings and large scale international conferences.”

Wedding reception options at the BMICH are diverse including picturesque gardens, beautiful banquet halls and more intimate options. Extending its exclusive catering partnership with Mount Lavinia Hotel, the BMICH offers its venues for weddings in coordination with the hotel. “You can consider us a hotel without rooming facilities. We will provide whatever Mount Lavinia Hotel is offering for weddings including an overnight stay at the hotel. The main advantage in this is – an individual does not have to deal with two suppliers. They can have the wedding here but are entitled to the same hotel package. The hotel will also begin to promote our venues for events,” Amarasinghe noted.

In addition to other benefits, on-going renovations to some of the buildings at the BMICH, including its restaurant and smaller venues, will provide a wide variety of options to fit every budget. He said, “We have immense car park spaces, and when compared to five star hotels our rates are very low albeit we provide the same services.”

The BMICH management understands that amenities are critical to delivering successful events. “When compared to hotels, we are way ahead in facilities, particularly for seminars and conferences. We even offer a special rate that is competitive to other hotels. Also our audio visual systems, translations and equipment are superior. Especially with seminars and conferences, we have 20 venues of different sizes and can provide space for the main event and additional breakout session which most hotels can’t do,” Amarasinghe noted.

BMICH hopes to link with hotels in Colombo in the future, assisting in their requirements for hosting mainly international conferences; the BMICH will provide the venues and the hotels will cater to accommodation.

Taking advantage of technological changes, the BMICH management has embraced e-commerce. The introduction of a central reservation system enables prior booking to be visible among the management ensuring a smoother planning of events. Active via social media through Facebook ( and a newly redesigned website, the BMICH forges ahead in communicating its value proposition.

Amarasinghe said, “We are also launching our new website soon. Interested parties can send their requests and view venue options and even menus, send inquiries and receive assistance on their queries via the web. They only need visit us to confirm and make required payments.” The management firmly believes that the BMICH provides an inspirational and unique setting not only for the nation but for visitors too, “The venue is a dynamic and prestigious icon in Sri Lanka and the management wants people to come to Sri Lanka and host their event in the country not just because of Sri Lanka but because of the BMICH,” he said.

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