Archive for January, 2017

Jetwing launches newest star hotel in Colombo


Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray (right) addressing the media. Others from left: Jetwing Hotels Directors Shiromal Cooray and Vijith Kannangara

  • Jetwing Colombo Seven has 70 deluxe rooms and 28 serviced apartments
  • Three more properties to be added with 400 rooms to the line up within the next two years 
  • Rs. 10 b future investments to be channelled through Jetwing Symphony 

With the unveiling of their newest property in the heart of Colombo, Jetwing Colombo Seven, the hospitality company has accelerated its growth now channelled through its new investment arm Jetwing Symphony, with plans to go public in the future.

The investment arm, which already has three properties under its management, also plans to open three more properties in Kandy, Uppaveli and Arugam Bay.

With a total investment of Rs. 10 billion, half funded by “strategic partners”, the company expansion plans stretches to 400 rooms within the next two years, generating 650 direct employment opportunities, Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray said while speaking at the launch last week.

Jetwing Potuvil Point, currently under construction, will add 20 chalets to the lineup of properties under the Jetwing Symphony brand. They have also planned Jetwing Kandy Gallery and another property in Uppaveli, Trincomalee, Cooray said.



The newest Jetwing property in the market, Jetwing Colombo Seven, marks the brand’s presence in the city promising to bring with it “resort living to an urban place”. The property, which has 70 deluxe rooms and 28 serviced apartments, aims to cater to an array of travellers including business travellers. Spread over 80 perches, Jetwing Colombo Seven, a five star city hotel, has retained its signature feature of spacious accommodation, a rarity in urban living. The hotel also houses a restaurant, Fifty7, a rooftop bar Ward7 and an infinity pool offering a panoramic view of Colombo.

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Etihad Airways announces worldwide January sale for guests travelling from Sri Lanka

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is offering travelers from Sri Lanka fantastic savings in its January sale.

Guests travelling in Business and Economy Class from Colombo can choose from a range of destinations across Europe, United States, Australia and Africa. Tickets are on sale until January 30 and are valid for travel between February 13 and December 10 for Business Class and between March 1 and December 10 for Economy Class passengers.

Etihad Airways currently operates twice daily scheduled flights from the capital Colombo to the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub offering convenient connections and seamless journeys to destinations worldwide. This unique facility is the first and only one of its kind in the Middle East, enabling international travellers to arrive as domestic passengers in the USA, avoiding the need to queue at immigration.

The pre-clearance in Abu Dhabi is the only such facility available to guests travelling from Sri Lanka. Members of Etihad Guest, the airline’s loyalty programme, will also be able to earn Etihad Guest Miles on all bookings during the sale.

Guest Miles can be used for redemption towards free tickets, upgrades, or for purchases of over 3,000 products from the Etihad Guest online Reward Shop.

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Using wildlife to boost tourism


A total of 1,798,380 tourists arrived in Sri Lanka in 2015. Only 375,735 of them – about 20% – visitedthe country’s wild life parks. There is clearly a big gap there and, as naturalists like Gehan de Silva Wijeratne have been pointing out for years, something needs to be done to get that percentage up.

While the beaches with their golden sand and turquoise waters are an obvious draw, and the imposing ruins of ancient Lanka as well as the picturesque mountainsides continue to pull backpackers and more affluent tourists alike, the country’s wealth of flora and fauna remain largely unexploited in terms of tourism promotion. The little promotion that does happen, a closer look will reveal, is either inadequate or substandard to the point that it could actually hurt the country’s image.

Wildlife tourism expert and Past President of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Srilal Miththapala has a plan – orat least an idea on top of which a plan can be built with the participation of all stakeholders – toturn things around.

At a public lecture organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce earlier this week under the topic ‘The Importance of Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Attractions,’ Miththapala spelt out of his vision.

Biodiversity hotspot

Sri Lanka is recognised as one of the 31 biodiversity hotspots in the world. That a little island nation like Sri Lanka has been featured in such a list is, as pointed out by Miththapala, is not only a rare honour but an opportunity to get those numbers up. Unfortunately, while Sri Lanka is world renowned for many salient things, this unique factor hardly ever gets a mention.

“There are, among others, 3,000 plants, 80 mammals, 180 reptiles – 101of whom are endemic – thatcan be found in Sri Lanka. This is a wide variety for such a small country. The species diversity here is amazing,” said Miththapala.

Tourism in Sri Lanka took a dip towards the latter parts of the country’s protracted civil war. Though the country has been a top destination for a long time, the travel trade was mired in crisis after crisis thanks to various epidemics and bombs going off on street corners. But almost immediately after the war ended in May 2009, tourism in Sri Lanka took a turn for the better.

“All other industries took a longer time to come out of the war, but we recovered immediately,” said Miththapala, referring to his chosen profession. “It has seen an upward trend since. Arrivals have reached almost two million now, and Sri Lanka is in a unique position in that our occupancy levels are not due to lowering rates. Arrivals are increasing and so is the rate.”

Sri Lanka’s big four

While that’s great news, there is definite room for growth. And that is where wildlife tourism comes in. Miththapala agrees. Referring to the above mentioned species diversity in the country, he said: “These are wonderful things that we should be shouting from the rooftops. We have the largest land mammal on earth and the largest animal that ever lived on earth. We have one of the largest predators, the leopard. And one of the more elusive animals – thesloth bear. We have four unique mammals in Sri Lanka. Why can’t we promote this as Sri Lanka’s big four?”

About 10% of the world’s elephant population reside in Sri Lanka. Miththapala laments that these are important statistics that are almost never highlighted when the country is pitched to the world of travel.

“Independent, hard-nosed naturalists who have travelled all over the world… they realise this is a wonderful place,” he said, pointing out that in addition to the largest land animal, Sri Lanka is also home to the smallest: the pygmy shrew.

Echoing sentiments previously expressed by his colleague Gehan de Silva Wijeratne– andpublished in Daily FT – Miththapalasaid that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where you can see blue whales, bottlenosed dolphins, wild elephants and leopards on a single weekend.

“These are fantastic and unique things that we can promote as attractions in Sri Lanka. Blue whales come to Mirissa because there’s a lot of krill and plankton there. These are the stories we have to tell,” he said.

Untitled-2Tell interesting stories

He also noted the need to tell interesting stories – forexample, Sumedha, the elephant that comes to the bunt of the Udawalawe lake to feed – ratherthan just saying “come to Sri Lanka; we have elephants”.

Referring to the controversial Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Miththapala said that, while there are shortcomings, it can be a helpful asset in terms of tourism.

“There were 362,000 visitors to Pinnawala last year, with Rs. 766 million in earnings. Although there are shortcomings, it is the world’s first elephant orphanage. It is also said to have the largest captive herd. It should’ve been the world’s primary research centre for elephants. Unfortunately, it has fallen by the way side. Hopefully it can be revived. Where on earth do you get 86 orphaned elephants in one space?” he said.

There is, however, an overcrowding issue in Pinnawala. The elephant transit home at Udawawale offers an interesting contrast.

“It’s a reasonable success story. There 40 calves being rehabilitated. The idea is that you don’t interact with them too much. They live most of the time outside in the grassland and come only for their milk. And once they’re old enough, they’re released in batches into national parks, usually to Udawalawe itself,” explained Miththapala.

Yala and Wilpattu

Yala, though more popular than ever (over half a million visitors), has lately been a bone of contention among tour operators and wildlife activists. Overcrowding is a serious issue in Yala, with countless safari jeeps flocking to the reserve to spot leopards.

Miththapala believes there is a need to take focus away from Yala and turn at least some of the tourists to other parks – particularlyWilpattu, which has seen a dearth in park visits in recent years.

“Yala is rocketing in terms of revenue, Udawalawe is going up, but Wilpattu has been going up and down unfortunately. Yala is overcrowded, so we need to push people to Wilpattu,” he said.

He called on tour operators to refer clients to other parks when they’re inquired about leopards

“Don’t focus on Yala. Say ‘would you like to take this route and go to Wilpattu?’ Push Yala out and bring in Wilpattu. It is the largest park, so you have to drive a lot to be to see a leopard if you’re lucky. But do shift the focus from Yala. That is in our hands. The hoteliers, the tour operators,” he said.

One of the biggest problems in Yala is a tendency by drivers to somehow show the guests a leopard. Their desire to give the client a unique experience, said Miththapala, coupled with tactics of overpromising have contributed to this issue. The solution, he reiterated, is to give the leopards a backseat and promote the park as a space to see other big game.

In terms of revenue, when you look at the visitornumbers, in 2015 the Sri Lankan visitors visiting all the parks outnumber foreigners 1:3. The foreigners, however, contribute more than 25% of revenue.

“We need to give the foreigners a value-for-money experience. In 2015 we had 1.8 million arrivals, out of which only 20% visited the parks. Wildlife and nature tourism does play an important role in Sri Lanka tourism. There’s a lot more room to grow. We’ll never become a Kenya, but there is room for growth,” said Miththapala.

Ethical tourism

The tourism industry – particularlytour operators and hoteliers – cando a lot to change things around, rather than waiting for the Department of Wildlife to step in. Miththapala advocates ethical tourism, discouraging hotels from offering elephant rides and the like to increasingly environmentally-conscience tourists.

“We must self-regulate, or we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.

“Wildlife and nature is our most valuable natural asset. We’re all of us blessed to be born in this wonderful country, If not for anything else, just for this beautiful natural asset that we have. It is the responsibility of all of us, tourism people, environmentalists, ordinary citizens, to somehow do their bit, in little organised clusters to help protect it from degradation. As Ghandi said, the greatness of a nation and its progress can be judged by the way its animals and environment are treated,” he added.

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German TV crew set to take Sri Lankan pride to the world

49Sri Lanka is now becoming a major tourist attraction with the peaceful environment, and since the country is going towards a major transformation in the tourism sector. Sri Lanka is expecting 2.5 million tourist arrivals this year, as it hopes to give a tremendous boost to the tourism sector.

In line with the strategic goals, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau arranged a familiarisation tour for a leading German media crew who are touring Sri Lanka from 15 January to 6 February, upon the request of the Sri Lankan mission in Germany.

They will be filming a documentary titled ‘Wunderschon,’ which will be about the beautiful places and popular attractions of Sri Lanka. The locations include the fishing harbour, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Kandy Town, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Horton Plains, Ravana Ella falls, Diyaluma Ella falls, Udawalawa National Park, Koggala stilt fishers, Mirissa, Galle, Dutch Fort, Ambalangoda wood carvings, Railway Station, Nanu Oya and several more notable attractions of Sri Lanka.

The documentary film ‘Wunderschon’ is scheduled to be aired by regional channels MDR, NR, WDR, 3Sat and HR. These channels are regional based and connected and with national broadcaster ARD – the main German television channel. ARD is the national consortium of the above public broadcasters in Germany.

WDR is considered the second largest broadcaster in Europe compared in numbers and employees. The program ‘Wunderschon’ is aired by WDR once a week. The concept of this program is to show beautiful landscapes, give a lot of information about the country and its interesting places and monuments. The program moderator is Tamina Kallert, who has a vast experience of travelled through the world, providing information about beautiful attractions.

This is a good opportunity and also a remarkable chance of promoting Sri Lanka as an important destination, and to get more publicity through several leading television channels in Germany. Through this attempt the European community will be interested in visiting this paradise island and having the experience of a lifetime.

It is important to note that Sri Lanka is now being more sought after as a tourist hub and being recognised by the international media. Sri Lanka Tourism gives its fullest support to boost the tourism sector and to encourage the foreign visitors to make their visits more frequent, proceeding with the concept of attracting 2.5 million tourists.

The programme ‘Wunderschon’ will certainly bring a plus point in creating awareness about Sri Lanka as an important holiday destination.

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Gulf Air touches down in Colombo

45The Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, celebrated the launch of its highly-anticipated inaugural five weekly direct service between Colombo and Bahrain on 19 January with the arrival of the airline’s first flight into Bandaranaike International Airport.

Gulf Air flight GF138 was welcomed into Bandaranaike International Airport, with a water cannon salute and, upon arrival, a celebratory event was held in the airport that saw the attendance of Bandaranaike International Airport officials, Gulf Air flight GF138’s captain and crew, Gulf Air’s General Sales Agent in Sri Lanka, Mack Air Ltd.’s CEO Anil Bandara and top management along with media representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.

Boasting one of the Middle East’s largest networks, with double daily flights or more to 10 regional cities, Gulf Air is well-positioned to connect passengers travelling to/from Colombo to several key destinations in the Middle East and Europe via its efficient Bahrain International Airport hub. The airline’s network currently serves 41 cities in 24 countries spanning three continents.

Gulf Air flights can be booked online at, the airline’s one-stop-shop website, where customers can also find a suite of additional online services offering hotel bookings, car rental, travel insurance and the Gulf Air Tours service that gives passengers access to a variety of travel add-ons such as sightseeing tours, museum passes, tours, excursions, local activities and airport transfers at their final destination. Fare/booking queries can also be directed to the airline’s 24-hour Worldwide Contact Centre on (+973) 17373737, or any Gulf Air sales offices and approved travel agencies.

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Sail Lanka Charter hosts PM on board latest luxury catamaran

42Sail Lanka Charter hosted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his wife on-board their 53ft sailing catamaran, Sapphire, during the Fairway Galle Literary Festival.

The impressive vessel reflects local indigenous talent, as it was built in Sri Lanka using local materials. Established in 2014 as part of the Sri Lanka Yachting Group, Sail Lanka Charter is enhancing local boat building skills as a tool to construct a bright future for young Sri Lankans as well as expanding the potential of the Sri Lankan tourism industry.

At Sail Lanka Charter, we are proud to be spearheading the industry to achieve new milestones. We are committed to grow with the Sri Lankan tourism industry as a brand new experience the country can offer.”

During the Galle Literary Festival, the sailing catamaran, Sapphire, also hosted a series of VIP guests including artists, authors, several CEOs of Sri Lankan companies, members of the tourist board. The visit by these government officials further strengthens the company’s bond with the tourism industry of Sri Lanka. The company is committed to empowering Sri Lankan people and business while also putting Sri Lanka on the global yachting tourism map.

Sail Lanka Charter is a Sri Lankan company founded in 2014 as an initiative of ‘Building A Future Foundation’. The foundation initiated Sail Lanka Charter (SLC) by rebuilding boats and infrastructure destroyed in the tsunami of 2004. In 2007, the foundation expanded into creating employment in sustainable socioeconomic industries related to the ocean. In 2008, they formed the first whale watching company in Mirissa, Mirissa Water Sports, giving rise to the whale watching industry with over 60 licensed boats in operation today. The company is the pioneering force of luxury aquatic tourism in Sri Lanka. Sail Lanka Charter is the first chartering company in Sri Lanka with more than five boats in operation around the island, offering cruises from three hours to 10 days. Sail Lanka’s three-day and six-day trips to Jaffna are fast gaining in popularity amongst local and foreign tourists. For more information:


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Sri Lanka Tourism creates hallmark at Vakantiebeurs 2017


Sri Lanka Tourism showed yet another aspect of its concern to boost the tourism sector, by participating in the Vakantiebeurs 2017 fair, which was held in Netherlands recently. Sri Lanka Tourism is quite familiar with the Dutch market as it has been participating at this fair for over a decade and 11 industry members participated in this year’s delegation from Sri Lanka. The fair was held from 10 to 15 January in Jaarberus, Utrecht.

The opening ceremony of the Sri Lanka stall was held on 10 January in parallel to the lavish and colourful opening ceremony of the fair itself. The Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Netherlands A.M.J. Sadiq graced the occasion and at the same time added more value to the occasion by the visit of the mayor of Utretcht J.H.C. Van zenen. He lighted the traditional oil lamp amidst a distinguished gathering and was shown a short promotional video of Sri Lanka followed by refreshments.

The Sri Lanka stand, as usual, showcased its creativity by adding a vibrant, colourful atmosphere, which attracted the visitors and also displayed its iconic 8 themes, Pristine, Essence, Heritage, Wild, Thrills, Heritage, Festivals and Bliss. The innovative concept of displaying pictures of these themes made the Dutch visitors get a very positive impression and the positive valuable benefits of Sri Lanka and its natural resources.

By participating at the Vakantiebeurs 2017 fair, the main objective of Sri Lanka Tourism was to showcase Sri Lanka as a desirable and memorable destination to the Dutch travellers who visit this fair to decide on their future holidays, especially those who like to have some adventure and an amazing experience. Thus, Sri Lanka is the ideal destination to have a variety of amazing experiences – be it cultural, social and historical. The Vakantiebeurs 2017 fair is a travel and tourism fair held yearly in The Netherlands and is considered the largest fair in the Dutch market.

Further, it set the stage for interested tourism industry members who participated at the fair with SLTPB to strengthen their partnerships with existing contacts, and find new opportunities with local tour operators and to promote their businesses to interested clients. JM – Marketing Danojani Weerasinghe represented the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau at this event. Thus this important travel exhibition came to a successful end, creating awareness together with a galore of opportunities for Sri Lanka Tourism to enhance the growth of the market.

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