Mega push to lure French tourists despite imminent UL pullout from Paris

  • SL tourism to pump Rs. 90 m to host French travel agents congress in October
  • Congress anticipated to create publicity value of $ 75 m
  • 450 French travel agents to be given fullest exposure to iconic tourism sites in Sri Lanka, main focus on cultural triangle 
  • SriLankan Chairman says likely to discontinue services to French capital from November but will support via code-sharing

Sri Lanka is bracing for a major push to woo French tourists investing Rs. 90 million to host a mega travel agents congress in October despite an imminent pullout from Paris by SriLankan Airlines later this year.

Authorities said Sri Lanka will be infusing Rs. 90 million to host 450 French travel agents at the Les Journées des Entrepreneurs du Voyages (JEV) congress formally known as Syndicate National Des Agents de Voyages (SNAV). The five day congress will be held from 31 October to 4 November

It is slated to create publicity value of $ 75 million for the sought after thrust industry in Sri Lanka through opinion making, word of mouth and firsthand experience.

BucketFrom left: Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga, Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Secretary Janaka Sugathadasam, SLCB Chairman Prema Cooray and Sri Lankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias

– Pic by Bhanuka Kirinde

The aim is to guide and steer the French tourism industry which is the fifth largest source market for Sri Lanka tourism. Following an 11 year hiatus SNAV had picked a destination in Asia to host this major event, the last being in 2005 in Beijing.

Noting that the congress will boost MICE tourism in the country Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Chairman Prema Cooray said: “We are fortunate to host this event which will bring in substantial benefits to Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry. In the last inspection held about a week ago we were told that Sri Lanka is now once again in the top 20 out bound travel destinations of France and we were generously told that Sri Lanka will be named the destination to travel for 2017.”

The official opening ceremony kicking off on 31 October at the BMICH is expected to be crucial for local tourism industry stakeholders as it will create a platform to engage with French travel agents. The main point hotel will be Cinnamon Grand as it meets the delegation’s requirements for the JEV conference on 1 Nov while the Kingsbury and Taj Samudra hotels will provide accommodation facilities.

“If you go by the policy statement given by the Prime Minister on 5 November one could realise that the Government has given greater importance to MICE tourism. Therefore the JEV congress will have a snowballing effect in promoting French outbound travellers to come to Sri Lanka. Having travel agents who will in turn have 450 travel points is a very significant development,” added Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa.

According to SLTPB findings French travel agents have showed increased interest to explore the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka which in turn has been met through the Agenda as the French delegation will be taken to Habarana via two trains on 2 November. Amaya Lake, Aliya Resort and Cinnamon Lodge were the chosen as the venues by the French inspection team. Meanwhile making room to give a holistic experience for the French nationals it following their excursions in Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Minneriya on 3 November one part of the congress attendees will take off to Kandy and Nuwara  Eliya while the rest will come to Negombo on 4 November and depart from BIA.

French tourist arrivals were up 9.2% in 2015 recording 86,126 travellers from 78,883 in 2014 while numbers in 2016 up to April stand at 43,173. Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau expects numbers to reach 100,000 each year post the JEV congress while statistics denote an overall increase of 15% by 2018. Moreover earnings are slated to ascend 10% by 2018 and reach $ 200 million in revenue from French tourists.

At the media conference to announce the mega event, debt ridden SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias indicated it was most likely to cease direct flights to France subsequent to the JEV conference in November.

“We were to pull out of Paris in May but we have kept the flights going till sometime in November especially due to the importance in facilitating the French travel agents for the SNAV congress,” Dias stressed.

In a bid to revitalise its operations the national carrier suspended thrice weekly flights to Rome from 1 May onwards however retaining its Paris operations with four weekly frequencies.

Dias said that if flights were suspended in November the airline has made arrangements in code share basis to accommodate the tourists. Thus it will not adversely affect the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

SriLankan Airlines will play a key role in the JEV congress to be held in October this year as two direct flights will be utilised for arrivals and departure purposes of the French travel agents.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/542534/Mega-push-to-lure-French-tourists-despite-imminent-UL-pullout-from-Paris#sthash.omsXJFG9.dpuf

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