Archive for May, 2016

Sancharaka Udawa

Sancharaka Udawa, Sri Lanka’s biggest tourism fair, is being held for the sixth time from 27-29 May at the BMICH from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. The inaugural opening was held under the auspices of Chief Guest Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs John Amaratunga and Guest of Honour Minister of Special Assignments Sarath Amunugama. The fair is ideal for those who wish to know about new hotels and the tourism industry

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Tourism travails

LAST week Sri Lanka Tourism celebrated 50 years. As arrivals plateau in a challenging external environment, the private sector is waiting for regulators and public policymakers to pull up their socks and give direction to a crucial dimension of the economy.
One of the key problems repeatedly highlighted by the industry is the lack of accurate data. For years the Government has been releasing numbers that do not differentiate between the formal and informal sectors adequately enough to understand how many foreigners are tourists, where they stay, how much they spend and their level of expectations. Without in-depth data, policymakers cannot understand the direction the industry should take, which affects the entire value chain.

Sans in-depth data, Sri Lanka has been floundering around for years without a solid branding and marketing strategy. Sri Lanka lacks a cohesive marketing strategy and campaign which should be a mutually-agreed private-public partnership. There are various promotional exhibitions that have taken place in foreign capitals in the past but they are not based on a master plan to promote the market destination. There is much more work that needs to be done in this area.

Even target group marketing is lacking and the country’s slogan has veered from ‘Small Miracle’ to ‘Wonder of Asia’ to ‘Land Like No Other’ without clearly communicating the island’s competitive advantage.

Singapore, for example, changed to ‘Yours Singapore’ to underpin its strengths as a destination. The re-branding was accompanied by a change in the offerings to tourists with the introduction of Formula One racing, casinos, and other night entertainments. The rebranding focused on the experience of a tourist that could be personalised – sound, tastes, sights and user-centricity.

Branding a destination has to be a carefully thought-out exercise based on the competitive strength and strategic position vis-à-vis the competitors. It is on this basis that countries have branded their tourism. For example, Greece – ‘A Masterpiece You Can Afford’; Canada – ‘Keep Exploring’; Malaysia – ‘Truly Asia’; Bulgaria – ‘A Discovery to Share’; India – ‘Incredible India’; Vietnam – ‘A Different Orient’; Maldives – ‘Always Natural’ and so on.

Then there is the eternal argument over where Sri Lanka should price itself and where it should source tourists from. Many tourism analysts have pointed out Colombo’s minimum room rate is prohibitive and should be loosened so market forces can decide the best rates.

However, the companies have steadfastly refused and with new properties and apartments coming into the market over the next few years, the possibility of a price bubble evolving in Colombo is high. Tourists could take the option of avoiding Colombo altogether, thereby impacting revenue of other businesses.

High spending tourists are the heart of the industry. However, Sri Lanka is internationally known as a budget destination and would require a massive increase in the quality of products on offer to compete with destinations like Thailand. Tourism also faces a huge challenge in terms of human resources and will not be able to attract high spending tourists consistently if it does not raise service levels exponentially in a short period of time.

Sri Lanka Tourism was created to provide solutions to these issues. Sadly, even after half a century, it is easier to list what has not been achieved.

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SL tourism targets to up earnings by 46% to $ 3.5 b this year: John


Minister John Amaratunga on Friday revealed that Sri Lanka tourism is targeting $ 3.5 billion in earnings this year on the strength of 2.5 million visitors.

In this the Golden Jubilee year we hope to achieve tourism revenue of $ 3.5 billion by welcoming 2.5 million visitors. Our target is to raise the per capita spend of each visitor from the present 165 US Dollars per night to 250 US Dollars per night,” Tourism Minister Amaratunga said speaking at the Sri Lanka Tourism’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. “The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau are going all out to achieve these targets under the guidance of my Ministry and also the Tourism Advisory Council,” the Minister said.

The 2016 target reflects a 46% increase from last year’s earnings of $ 2.43 billion, up from 22.6% in 2014. Last year tourist arrivals grew by 18% to 1.79 million and average spending by a tourist per day rose to $ 164.1 in 2015 from $ 160.8 in 2014.

The Minister said that towards achieving this target the SLTPB and SLCB will be participating in all key international travel shows to promote Destination Sri Lanka while also adopting innovative methods of advertising to reach target audiences.

It was pointed out that the entry of top international brands, the upgrading of existing hotels and the emergence of the luxury boutique segment have contributed to the changing profile of inbound tourists. “While Sri Lanka remains a value-for-money proposition especially with the introduction of the home stay concept and air bnb, we are also becoming a significant player in the luxury segment. According to industry analysts, the luxury segment will continue to grow in to the foreseeable future. This will lead to increased spending which is good for the economy,” Minister Amaratunga pointed out.

He also said thousands of Sri Lankans have found a livelihood in providing goods and services to the tourism and hospitality industries. This is in addition to direct employment which currently stands at around 130,000.

“According to forecasts this number will have to be more than doubled by the year 2020 to service the targeted 4 million visitors. This is a huge challenge for my Ministry, but one which we have embraced very confidently,” Amaratunga said.

According to him, starting from this year, the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management has doubled its intake of students from 3,200 last year to 6,000 students this year.

“This has been done with the introduction of new courses and the setting up of new satellite hotel schools in key tourist locations. Rather than waiting for the youth to come to us, we are now going to the youth. I’m happy to inform you that the response has been very encouraging. In the past 9 months we have opened three new satellite hotel schools in Hambantota, Passikudah and Negombo. More of these schools will be opened wherever there is demand for it. These new generation hospitality campuses will groom our youth to take on the challenges of the modern tourism industry with confidence,” Minister Amaratunga said.

He also said one of the key areas his Ministry is currently focusing on is MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) tourism. “We see huge growth potential for this segment especially from India and China,” he said.

“In a very encouraging development, the leading French travel association, JEV – formally called SNAV – has decided to hold its annual congress for 2016 in Sri Lanka. This is a huge morale booster for the industry and one that will translate into considerable growth in the French market over the next few years. In addition the World Tourism Organization is conducting a global conference in Passikudah in July this year further highlighting the growth of this segment,” the Minister said.

“One area that was a drawback to developing this segment was connectivity. That problem is being solved with the airlines operating to Colombo increasing their frequencies and also the entry of new airlines to Colombo. We are very encouraged by the re-entry of KLM and our intention is to increase the number of daily flights which currently stands at around 75 to over 100 in the near future,” Amaratunga added.

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Grand Hyatt Colombo to be ready for 2017 winter season


Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry will see a major boost with the opening of Grand Hyatt Colombo for the December season next year – it will raise the bar in the luxury city hotel market in Sri Lanka. Grand in every way, Grand Hyatt Colombo features elegant architecture, spectacular lobby and public spaces, and multiple dining experiences, in addition to a wide range of accommodation facilities.

The $ 240 million property consists of 1.1 million sq. ft. built up area spread across 49 levels. It will have 397 rooms, 61 suites and 100 serviced apartments (ranging from one to three bed rooms). Hence Grand Hyatt Colombo will be the only five-star property catering to both short and long stay market segments. Furthermore, the luxury hotel will have 10 restaurants including three restaurants located at 43/44 levels with spectacular views of the city and Indian Ocean.

Grand Hyatt targets high end business, official and leisure travellers. Unlike other major hotel developments, Grand Hyatt is a standalone hotel (i.e., not part of crowded integrated developments). Hence Grand Hyatt Colombo will be the preferred hotel of VIP guests because of the high level of security, privacy and convenience it offers. Furthermore the hotel aims to attract grand business and social events. It will have dedicated banquet and conference facilities spread across two floors occupying over 35,000 sq. ft. The hotel’s main ballroom will be able to accommodate more than 1,000 guests.

Grand Hyatt Colombo is a project undertaken by Canwill Holdings Ltd. and is owned by Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC), Employee Provident Fund (EPF) and Litro Gas Lanka (which is also a subsidiary of SLIC). SLIC has a successful track record of investing in hotels – both public and privately held. These include SLIC’s investment in Club Robinson (now known as Club Bentota) which was exited in 2002. EPF has also turned positive on the tourism sector, and has invested into many hotels. Other projects it has invested in recently include Marriot Weligama.

Hyatt Hotels Corporation is a leading American hospitality company and manages hotels under several brands/categories. ‘Grand Hyatt’ is the flagship brand reserved for large properties in major cities and major holiday destinations. As at 31 December 2015, Hyatt Hotels Corporation portfolio consists of 628 properties in 52 counties.

Sri Lanka’s City Hotel market has seen a healthy growth during last five years. Average annual occupancy has been above 70% during the same period. Even with expected additions (currently on-going projects), Colombo will experience significant shortage of hotel rooms by 2026. Estimated shortage of room capacity by 2026 is around 12,500 rooms unless new projects are started within next five years.

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Sri Lanka Tourism launches roadshow promotions in 3 Australian cities

leadSri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) launched its first roadshow in Australia from Melbourne, on 17 May with great success. Following the first show in Melbourne two more roadshows were conducted in Brisbane and Sydney.

The roadshow in down under was designed to educate the Australian travel trade while developing strong relationships between Sri Lankan tourism providers and Australian travel agents.

The Sydney finale on Monday night attracted over 100 Australian agents, wholesalers and tour operators with particularly strong numbers from behemoth agencies Flight Centre and Helloworld in attendance, according to SLTPB.

Other companies represented included Adventure World, Excite Holidays and Qantas Holidays, along with an assortment of niche wildlife, surf, and outdoor specialists. Representatives from 11 trade and consumer media outlets were also on hand to cover the event.

Addressing the delegation, which also included representatives from 29 Sri Lankan based tourism suppliers, SLTPB Director of Marketing Madubhani Perera reiterated the importance of Australian tourism arrivals into Sri Lanka and highlighted a strong growth rate of 9% last year. First quarter arrivals suggested that the SLTPB were well on target to achieve the goal of 70,000 Australian arrivals in 2016.

“Australia is the seventh most important tourists generating market for Sri Lanka which marked a steady growth rate of 9% in 2015 and this year we target 70,000 arrivals from Australia,” Perera said.

The roadshows in Australia are just one of the strategies that SLTPB is leveraging throughout 2016 to increase awareness in the country, which looks set to see continued growth in the years ahead.

The event, held at the five-star Hilton Hotel in Sydney’s central business district, commenced with a traditional oil lamp lighting ceremony, followed by a keynote address from Consul General for Sri Lanka in Sydney Lal Raj Wickramatunge, who was joined at the head table by Assistant Director Marketing for Australia C.L. Gasnawage.

A comprehensive two-hour networking and B2B session preceded a three-course dinner, before over a dozen lucky Sydney attendees won a range of fully hosted fact finding trips to Sri Lanka as well as an assortment of Sri Lankan sapphires, courtesy of Pledge Holidays, Golden Isle, Cinnamon Air, Singapore Airlines, Air India, Bernard Tours, Airwings Tours, Hawk Travel and Lanka Sportreizen.

The Brisbane roadshow recorded the highest number of delegates eclipsing all other tourism roadshows held during the past years with 74 Australian travel agents, media and tour operators attending the event. Flight Centre, Australia’s largest outbound travel agency marked its presence boding well for arrivals to Sri Lanka. Wend Wu Tours and Infinity Holidays, two of Australia’s foremost tour operators and many niche wildlife, surf, and nature specialists too visited the event.

The event was held at Sofitel, a five-star hotel located in Brisbane’s business district. Anton Philip Swan, honorary consul general for Sri Lanka in Brisbane made the keynote speech and also presented at the traditional oil lamp lighting ceremony.

At the Brisbane show, guests were treated with a three-course dinner and an intensive B to B session conducted nearly two hours between Australian and Sri Lankan travel industry partners. There were nine lucky Australians, who won a range of fully hosted fact finding trips to Sri Lanka gifted by Pledge Holidays, Golden Isle, Cinnamon Air, Singapore Airlines, Bernard Tours, Airwings Tours, Hawk Travel and Lanka Sportreizen.

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Chef’s Table dining experiences at FLOW


FLOW at Hilton Colombo Residences prides itself on being the only restaurant that offers exclusive Chef’s Table dining experiences in Sri Lanka. An all-day dining, with an open kitchen concept with seating for 168 guests, FLOW has a dedicated private dining room for these exclusive dining experiences.

A Chef’s Table is a dining experience where guests’ meals are prepared by a dedicated chef, and the process is seen by the guest and explained by the chef with each main course. Set in a comfortable and contemporary ambience, the private dining area has exclusive cutlery and crockery to host up to a maximum of 14 guests at a time.

Menus can be customised by speaking with renowned Executive Chef Priyal Wijesuriya. The Chef’s Table is opportune to host clients and family for special occasions. Each course is paired with a range of fine wines from around the world.

FLOW has paved itself as a destination for dining by the cuisine offered by the award winning culinary team. The open kitchens in the main restaurant include a Chinese wok, Tandoori oven and Zesti oven, perfect for meat lovers. Wijesuriya, who has played an integral part since its design phase says that his team is very passionate about the restaurant and enjoy the vivid offerings served from the five open kitchens.

“We offer some the favourite cuisines the world-over such as Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan; we have already established ourselves as a favourite for local cuisine. The Chef’s Table is an exclusive offering to diners who appreciate custom-made exclusive menus being prepared in a ‘show kitchen’ from start to finish.”

The inclusion of a Chef’s Table dining area was a strategic move made by the management on identifying that there was a need for one in the market. General Manager Karim Schadlou remarked that it was discovered that there is a need for a Chef’s Table in Sri Lanka.

He added: “We have had a great response since the inception and the market has identified FLOW as a restaurant that can offer the level of service to complement the exclusive menus offered with the Chef’s Table. It’s mainly patronised for special occasions, and will only grow to become a more popular concept of dining in Colombo.”

FLOW is active on social media, and guests can follow them on or on Facebook. For reservations or more details, please contact 0-115-344-644 extension 635.

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Sri Lanka Tourism celebrates Golden Jubilee on Friday



The month of May 2016marks a golden milestone for Sri Lanka Tourism with the grand celebration of its 50th anniversary.

Earlier referred to as the Ceylon Tourist Board, it was the official government body responsible for all tourism related activities and development within the country. The Ceylon Tourist Board was established on 2May 1966 by Tourism Act No. 10 of 1966. It is now branched into four institutions, namely, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) and Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB).

Sri Lanka Tourism has initiated a series of activities to celebrate this historic occasion. An attractive logo which depicts the various tourist attractions of Sri Lanka was launched in March powering a more meaningful beginning to this event. The grand celebrations will draw the attention of both local and global tourism enthusiasts, bringing a strong word of mouth to brand Sri Lanka.

Amongst the planned activities, 50 foreign nationals are already in the country talking about Sri Lanka and it has grabbed the attention of many tourism lovers in the Sri Lankan tourism industry. These videos will be released to the social media channels at the inaugural ceremony which will be held on 27May at the main hall of the BMICH with the participation of the four institutions.

Along with the celebrations a commemorative volume, a commemorative stamp and a video film on the 50-year history of the industry will be launched at the national ceremony. Individuals who have contributed to the development and growth of the tourism industry throughout the years will be felicitated as ‘Legends of Tourism’ along with appreciation awards for long service staff members of the institutions at this event. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Executive Director of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are expected to attend the official ceremony on 27 May.

This event will be followed by a National Exhibition of Artefacts in Tourism which will showcase important milestones of Sri Lanka Tourism since its establishment in 1966. The exhibition will take place from 27to 29May. Sri Lanka Tourism has already conducted a series of competitions for children and adultsin parallel to this Golden Jubilee Celebrations. A stamp will be issued at the main celebration platform. The prizes for the children’s essay, arts competition and photo and videography competitions will also be presented on the same stage. A number of social media competitions are also being promoted to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations such as 50 best experiences of Sri Lanka and 50 best food of Sri Lanka.

Other events at the BMICH premises from 27to 29May include exhibition on memories of 50 years of Sri Lanka Tourism, exhibitions of cultural heritage, gem and jewellery, Sri Lankan handicrafts, wildlife conservation, zoological and botanical gardens and Ceylon Tea by relevant Government organisations, Sancharaka Udawa – Exhibition of Tourism products meet mart in Sri Lanka organised by Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators. A Home Stay village showcasing rural tourism activities and cultural shows presented by the armed forces.

Over the years various highly regarded professionals led each of these institutions together with the devoted team at Sri Lanka Tourism to achieve the targets and goals in the Sri Lankan tourism industry. Accounting only 18,969 tourist arrivals in the year 1966, Sri Lanka Tourism industry has progressed dramatically over five decades to receive an all-time high of 1.8 million annual tourist arrivals at the end of the year 2015. Previous year total arrivals showed a 17.8% year on year growth and that will be expected to continually improve over the upcoming years by financially strengthening the nation.

Further, over the next several years Sri Lanka Tourism will focus on sustainable tourism development by improving the stability between the tourism related commercial development with a natural and socio-cultural uplift. With this positive vision towards the future of the tourism industry, Sri Lanka Tourism is heading towards new challenges with the accomplishment of continued progress, regardless of the rising competition in the global tourism sector.

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