French travel agents pledge to boost tourism in SL


By Charumini de Silva

The largest travel agents’ association in France Les Entreprises du Voyage (LEV) on Monday kicked off its annual congress in Colombo with a pledge to re-establish Sri Lanka as a prime destination in the Indian Ocean for French travellers.

LEV President Jean-Pierre Mas, speaking at the inauguration ceremony at BMICH Colombo, pointed out that their common goal was to promote Sri Lanka with the assistance of French travel professionals, and to re-establish Sri Lanka as a leading island destination in the Indian ocean for French travellers.

He added that French travel professionals have no worry over Sri Lanka’s quality of services, safety, solidarity and stability for tourism and would certainly help boost tourism in the country.

Mas also commended the combined efforts of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and LEV for organizing the event successfully in Colombo, which is the first time in 10 years that the congress is being held at a long haul destination with a participation of over 300 delegates. The congress will conclude on 5 November.

Tourism Development, Land and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga asserted that Sri Lanka Tourism was very eager to strengthen its bonds with the French travel trade.

“We in Sri Lanka have always welcomed French tourists with open arms and will continue to do so. We are very interested in growing the number of arrivals from France in the days ahead and I’m sure this Congress will be the required impetus in achieving this goal,” he said.

Noting it was noteworthy that French tourists have traditionally been associated with the high end market, he emphasized that the new luxury properties which are opening up in various locations in the country will be a very attractive proposition for this segment.

The fact that Sri Lanka was chosen to host this year’s LEV Congress is in itself a massive boost for Sri Lanka Tourism, with the Minister calling it a ‘golden opportunity’. “I am very confident that this congress will help boost tourism to Sri Lanka from France and the European Union.”

He acknowledged that France, which for many years has been a traditional primary market for Sri Lanka Tourism, also produces the highest number of incentive travellers from Europe. “I would like to recall with gratitude that during the dark days when tourism was struggling for survival during the three decade long war, French tourists never stopped coming to Sri Lanka and kept the industry afloat. We are very thankful for this. With the end of the war, arrivals from France have picked up rapidly and the momentum continues to this day.” Highlighting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s economic policy statement in parliament last week he said that the Government will be looking to transform Sri Lanka into a high value destination by showcasing its cultural pursuits, wildlife and environment. Provinces that offer these attractions are to be developed as tourism hot spots.

Special Assignments Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama explained that the tourism industry today is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and a vital sector of Sri Lanka’s economy.

“We have registered an almost 30% growth every year and we hope it will grow even faster in the near future,” he said.

Dr. Amunugama stressed Sri Lanka is the safest tourist destination now in the world, noting that security concerns are on the rise at popular tourism destinations across Europe and in Middle Eastern countries. “Today all our rival destinations are having some problem or the other and question marks have risen regarding their tourism. There are no question marks regarding Sri Lanka.”

Stating that the French are very special people who like to celebrate life well, he canvassed Sri Lanka as a great destination offering different attractions for tourists in one place.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara

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