Archive for April, 2017

Australia funded AUS $ 15 m initiative to boost SL tourism

High Commissioner  Bryce Hutchesson.  Picture by Sarath Peries
High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson. Picture by Sarath Peries

The ‘Skills for Growth’ programme undertaken by Australia and the Skills Development and Vocational Training Ministry will identify skills gaps and provide training that contribute to Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, said Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson.

He was addressing the launch of the Australia Sri Lanka Alumni (ASLA) network in Colombo, hosted by the Australian High Commission on Wednesday.

“The initiative is intended to delve into the tourism industry perspectives and identify as to where the skills gaps lie, and embark on a series of training activities to ensure that those gaps are filled. It aims to provide livelihood opportunities for people to contribute in the tourism sector,” High Commissioner Hutchesson said.The programmes is a development partnership running for four years under Australian funds of AUS $ 15 million. It will have a geographic focus, mainly in the three districts of the Eastern Province and the North Central Province, the High Commissioner added.

He said the tourism value chain in Sri Lanka is underdeveloped. “There is a lot of untapped potential particularly from the private sector. Small scale entrepreneurs have a significant role to play in this growth industry,” he added.

‘Tourism Australia’ is a major part of Australia’s brand and appeal. Australia is working with Sri Lanka’s private sector and the government to provide consultancy on Sri Lanka’s tourism strategy and vision by drawing on Australia’s example.

Guest speaker Tourism Australia Deputy Chair Andrew Fairley said his first suggestion for a vibrate tourism sector is to ensure that there isn’t fragmentation in the sector for the best possible outcome. He said coordination and communication is key among the various linked institutions and departments. Fairley added that the research component cannot be underestimated, and that safety and security is the number one priority of travelers.

Secretary to the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training and marine biologist, whale expert and NatGeo Young Explorer Dr Asha de Vos also spoke.

The newly launched Australia Sri Lanka Alumni (ASLA) network will expand the scope of Australia-Sri Lanka bilateral education relationship.

The network will bring together Sri Lankans who have studied in Australia, to stay connected with Australia and to network with the thousands of other alumni who are achieving much in Sri Lanka after returning.

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Change of SriLankan flight timings due to closure of Indian airspace for an experimental flight



Due to an experimental flight launch by India and closure of the Indian airspace on 27 April, the arrival and departure timings of the following SriLankan Airlines flights will be changed. Passengers are kindly advised to contact their travel agent, nearest SriLankan Airlines Office or the SriLankan Airlines Global Contact Center on 0094197331979 and for further details. Updated timings are given below.

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Sri Lanka steps up tourism promotion at Arabian Travel Market


Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the industry’s leading travel and tourism exhibition within the Middle Eastern and Pan Arab Regions. Sri Lanka Tourism has been participating at this event since 2003 along with the members of the travel and industry in Sri Lanka and this was their 14th consecutive year of participation at the event. Sri Lanka is an island consisted with millions of natural advantages by having the highest bio diversity in Asia, backed by a strong culture, historical artefacts, exotic beaches, green environment and friendly people. As an island, Sri Lanka tourism promotes Authenticity, Compactness and Diversity as its unique selling propositions.

Sri Lanka Tourism has achieved a multitude of successes during 2016 recording the ever highest tourist arrivals in the history which is 2.0 million. This was accompanied by a tremendous growth rate of 22.1% compared with the year 2015. Sri Lanka is well on its way to its 2.4 million arrivals goal in 2017 with an estimated growth rate of 26%. The Government intends to do this by diversifying tourism offering further through efficient connectivity across the island, enhance products and elevating service standards. The Government plans to introduce a new zonal development for tourism, and place special emphasis on preservation of cultural, religious and natural resources.

Usually the Middle East region contributes over 7%-8% for the total tourist arrivals for Sri Lanka every year. There were above one hundred thousand tourist arrivals were recorded from the Middle East Region where Saudi Arabia has shown a tremendous increase over the period of time which recorded 38,836 number of travellers to Sri Lanka during 2016. UAE brings the second highest number of travellers from this region where above 8,475 travellers visited in 2016. Oman is an established market for Sri Lanka Tourism where 14,216 number of travellers recorded during last year. Prominently the Israel and Kuwait were two emerging markets for Sri Lanka Tourism.

Sri Lanka face intense competition from other tourism destinations both regionally and globally and these consumer and trade related promotions were supported to make a visible impact for Sri Lanka Tourism. In order to remain competitive as a tourism destination and sustain competitiveness, Sri Lanka was focussed on specific promotions under the identified eight themes as her tourism product portfolio to promote among the potential travellers. There were three USPs identified by Sri Lanka Tourism to set Sri Lanka apart from its competitors as diversity, authenticity and compactness.

The key country highlights 

1.    Sri Lanka is strategically located at the cross roads of both east and west sea routes and serves as the point of entry to South Asia. Major international airlines operate frequent flights from Sri Lanka to popular cities in Middle East by Fly Dubai, Emirates, Sri Lankan, Etihad, RG (Rotan a jet), Saudi Air, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Kuwait Air.

2.    Sri Lanka is a safe destination and all tourists are free to travel to any part of the country. Foreign travellers could easily obtain visas online without the hassle of filling of paper documents.

3.    The East with the finest beaches, surf and whale watching; the North with its temples and beaches; the Central and Southern parts with game sanctuaries, the South with its sandy beaches and the cultural triangle depicting the history and archaeology of ancient Sri Lanka.

4.    The overall country is a preferred destination for global trade and the value of the brand namely few trade highlights are as follows.

nSri Lanka is known as a preferred ethical sourcing capital of the world for apparel with key apparel companies.

nSri Lanka is also earned the recognition of being ethically manufactured cleanest tea as per ‘Kyoto Protocol’ and is the global leader for Black tea.

nSri Lanka is known as a Blue Sapphire capital of the world with Princess Diana’s wedding ring generous a Ceylon sapphire.

nSri Lanka supplies 90% of the world demand for Cinnamon, branded as Ceylon Cinnamon.

5.    Development of high mobility networks has been given a top priority while expressways connecting Colombo-Matara and Colombo- Katunayaka are completed, three further developments are underway. Colombo International Airport has modern facilities for passengers in the sub-continent.  Recently, 100 million dollars were invested in the new passenger terminal. Mattala International Airport in the South is a second international airport. Network of domestic airports and sea ports are being evaluated for further development. Sri Lanka has been recognised as a top destination to explore through rail.

6.    Sri Lanka is currently focusing on creating a business friendly environment. Sri Lanka Tourism’s ‘One Stop Shop’ is a centralised promotion and facilitation centre created to assist potential tourism investors interested in investing a minimum capital of $ 2 million and over. Tax concessions for tourism projects were proposed in 2017 budget.

7.    Sri Lanka is also heading towards a major global logistics hub in the South Asian region in addition to the rapid development of various sectors of the economy with top hotel chains like Shangri-La, Hyatt and ITC Sheraton setting up large properties to cater to the affluent clientele of foreign guests. Luxury/Branded hotel and resort developments are motivated and facilitated to meet carrying capacity of tourist zones in the country.

8.    Luxury Tourism, Sport and Adventure Tourism and Wildlife and Nature Tourism have been identified as priority areas for investment. World class lifestyle and entertainment investments such as golfing, yachting, cruise terminals, spas, wellness/healing, yoga, a vibrant arts and culture scene and world class restaurants are being encouraged as well as Eco tourism and sustainable development ventures that prioritises conservation of natural and heritage resources.

9.    Modern Exhibitions and Conventions Centres to be strategically constructed supporting the MICE tourism.

Extraordinary offers of Sri Lanka

“It is undoubtedly the finest island of its size in all the world” – Marco Polo

This beautiful island destination offers a diverse yet authentic tourist experience across the island. The country is rich in natural resources, and boasts the highest biodiversity in Asia, and is the home to both the Blue Whale and Asian Elephant. Sri Lanka has several national parks and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The forests and wildlife sanctuaries, a year-round benign climate, spectacular landscapes in the highlands and lowlands, a rich biodiversity and, above all, a friendly and welcoming people. Sinharaja Forest Reserve which is a hilly rain forest that is home to an abundance of rare and precious endemic species- trees, amphibians, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. The Central Highlands made up of Three Wet-zone parks situated in the hills in the middle of Sri Lanka. The island is unique due to its compactness, diversity and the authenticity. The differencing factors of Sri Lanka is nature, heritage, culture combined with sun, sea and sand. One could have eight themes of experiences in Sri Lanka.

The pristine beaches and relaxing beach holidays are guaranteed all year round. Sportive holidaymakers find perfect conditions for hiking, diving, (kite) surfing or golfing and for the adventurous the island offers a range of thrills between top of the mountains and the depths of the oceans. With a rich history of over 3,000 years, visitors interested in culture and history can travel to the past while visiting the remains of ancient cities; fifteen national parks attract nature lovers. Ayurveda Resorts here are among the best in the world and offer top quality health and wellness programs.

Emerging themes of tourism

Luxury Tourism, Sport and Adventure Tourism and Wildlife and Nature Tourism have been identified as emerging tourism themes of Sri Lanka. World class lifestyle and entertainment investments such as golfing, yachting, weddings and honeymoons, cruise terminals, spas, wellness/healing, yoga, a vibrant arts and culture scene and world class restaurants are being encouraged at present. Eco tourism and sustainable development ventures that prioritises conservation of natural and heritage resources have been prioritised in the current context.

As a result of this well-established infrastructure and diverse range of opportunities, Sri Lanka has recognised globally as a potential destination to travel. Dream Trips, special edition of Lonely Planet Magazine has endorsed Sri Lanka as one of the Top 10 destinations to visit in 2015. Together with this statement, Sri Lanka achieved a rich collection of endorsements from recognised global travel publications from the beginning of 2016., Condé Nast Traveler, ABTA – Association of British Travel Agents, Haper’s Bazaar (UK) Magazine were few of them who endorsed this beautiful designation as one of the top travel decisions to make in 2015.

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Sri Lanka seeks to carve out niche in medical tourism

Rising numbers of tourists from abroad and a state-led campaign to expand medical tourism could attract further investment to Sri Lanka’s health care sector, creating additional opportunities for its hospitality industry in the process.

The country’s bid to become a centre for health and wellness is supported by improved connectivity and infrastructure, as well as its increased popularity as a tourism destination. Foreign arrivals were up 3.4% year-on-year in the first quarter, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

In a sector update released in February, local brokerage and research firm NDB Securities said medical tourism could drive new demand for health services, catalysed by the three private hospitals in the country that are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI).

JCI accreditation, which certifies that a hospital meets the same rigorous standards as in the US, is among the top growth drivers of medical tourism in emerging markets, according to industry research firm Patients Beyond Borders.

Global market size

Some 14m people, it calculates, travel abroad each year expressly for medical treatment, from dentistry and transplants, to cancer and cosmetic surgery, spending a combined $3800-6000 per visit on medical care, transport and accommodation. It estimates this market is growing by 15-25% per year.

In a broader measure, revenues from medical tourism worldwide grew by 14% in 2015 to reach $563bn, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a figure that includes domestic and so-called secondary wellness tourists travelling primarily for non-medical reasons. Of this, $111bn was spent in the Asia-Pacific region, a lucrative and fast-growing market Sri Lanka hopes to tap.

Another advantage for Sri Lanka is that its top-five source countries for tourists – India, China, the UK, Germany and France – represent a significant and potentially lucrative market for health provision.

Since these already comprise a large chunk of foreign arrivals – about half of the 605,000 who came in the January-to-March period, according to government data – there is potential to market health services to them as well.

Development potential

The government has identified health tourism as a subsector that could help lift export earnings to the $20bn target it has set for 2020, building on existing tourism and health infrastructure.

To this end, it set up a Council for the Promotion of Medical Tourism in 2015, bringing together government officials, hospital directors and other sector stakeholders to discuss ways of developing the market, with its inaugural meeting held late that year.

Potential to develop the niche is clear, according to Ajith Tudawe, chairman of Durdans Hospital, one of the country’s oldest private health providers. “Medical tourism is in its infancy, but has started out strongly with investments into cosmetic and dental care,” he told OBG. In one promising development, he said private hospitals have pursued far greater utilisation of ICT, leading to better data-sharing and information transfer – a key service for attracting foreign patients.

In mid-March Lanka Hospitals renewed its agreement with MyDoctor, a web-based advisory service that allows patients to upload their medical records for anonymous consultations with a hospital’s doctors, facilitating ease of access for international patients.

Such capacity building, Tudawe said, could have a positive impact on medical services and encourage improvements in the public health sector by raising standards and boosting competition.

Assessment and strategy

To better understand the current state of the market, the Export Development Board (EDB) commissioned an evaluation of the country’s medical tourism services at the end of 2016 by the US-based Medical Travel Quality Alliance.

Representatives of the alliance have begun to assess the quality of hospitals, clinics, traditional health facilities, hotels and spas, awarding international certification to those that comply with recognised standards and regulations.

At a meeting with the EDB at the start of the year, the alliance identified core strengths Sri Lanka can use to develop health tourism, including its established network of hospitals with modern facilities, a large pool of English-speaking medical professionals and its strong tourism base.

However, these strengths are being offset by other factors at present, the EDB said, including lack of a clear strategy to support health tourism, non-recognition of local service providers by international insurance firms and low brand awareness worldwide.

Economic impact

As the country pushes ahead with efforts to address barriers to medical tourism growth, doors should also be opened for operators in travel and hospitality, where there is potential for tie-ins with health service providers.

Hotels, resorts and other serviced accommodation could, for example, adapt their offerings to the needs of recuperating patients, such as special dietary foods, ease-of-mobility improvements, and access to medical and rehabilitation personnel.

While targeting the health and wellness segment would require some investment up-front, gaining a foothold in this market could bring strong advantages, including longer average stays, larger bookings for accompanying family and a higher share of clientele from the upper end of the tourism market.

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Work starts on $ 54 m Marine Drive Hotel

01 From left: The Range Design Chief Architect Ryo Takarada, Asia Capital Director Toshiaki Tanaka, Asia Capital Director/ Group CEO Stefan Abeyesinhe, Asia Capital Chairman Paul Ratnayeke, Defense Secretary Eng. Karunasena Hettiarachchi, Board of Investment Chairman Upul Jayasuriya, Japanese  Ambassador Kenichi Suganuma, Belluna Co. Ltd. Japan President Kiyoshi Yasuno, Belluna Co. Ltd Managing Director Hiroshi Yasuno, Hazama Ando Corporation Managing Executive Officer Hideo Matsumoto and Hazama Ando Corporation Project Manager Masaaki Hirawata

– Pic by Lasantha Kumara

  • Japan’s Belluna Ltd. envisages $ 500 m investment in tourism and real estate sectors in the next five years
  • Belluna-Asia Capital collection of projects in SL attracts over $ 500 m 
  • $ 350-400 m multi-development project on D.R. Wijewardena Mw, will begin work next year
  • Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort to be launched this Christmas

By Charumini de Silva

Asia Capital Plc, in collaboration with Japanese foreign investor and partner Belluna Ltd, yesterday commenced building a $ 54 million, four-star business hotel along Marine Drive, Colombo 3, while envisaging an investment of $ 500 million in the tourism and real estate sectors within the next five years.

The 300-room, 27-floor Marine Drive Hotel is projected to be completed within three years and will be built by leading Japanese construction company Hazama Ando Corporation.

“With Sri Lanka’s tourism and real estate sectors growing exponentially, we foresee an investment of over $ 500 million to Sri Lanka within the next five years,” Belluna Ltd. Managing Director Hiroshi Yasuno told Daily FT.

He further said that Belluna’s offshore expansion focuses strongly on emerging markets and it was pleased to be part of Sri Lanka’s development drive.

“Our eyes are wide open to every good investment opportunity in Sri Lanka. In geopolitical terms, Sri Lanka is in a strategic maritime location, has an educated workforce and has wonderful resources for tourism. Sri Lanka is a great country to invest in due to its rapid economic growth, public safety and also as a country that is very friendly with Japan,” Yasuno stressed.

The collection of projects spells out the long-term vision of the partnership of the joint venture, which has attracted over $ 500 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) to Sri Lanka during the past three years, making Belluna Ltd. the largest private investor from Japan in the real estate sector.

The joint venture thus far collaborated on a series of luxury development projects in Sri Lanka and beyond which includes a 50-villa ultra-luxurious resort in Galle with an investment of $ 15 million, the $ 50 million 447 Luna Tower project, a 190-unit exclusive apartment complex being built at Union Place and a $ 350-$ 400 million multi-development project in Colombo 1 (D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha).

In addition, the joint venture is currently in partnership with leading global hospitality company Marriot International Inc. to open the $ 55 million The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, a 70-key luxury property focusing on wellness tourism this Christmas.

Asia Capital Group Chief Executive Officer and Director Stefan Abeyesinhe said the $ 350-$ 400 million multi-development project in Colombo 1 would consist of a hotel, office complex and residences.

“This project will be developed on the premises of the former Crown Casino. At present we are doing a fresh design for the entire project and obtaining approvals from the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and Board of Investment (BOI). We hope to commence work by mid-next year,” he added.

Further, he stated that they were looking at a 50-acre plot of land in Arugam Bay on the East Coast of the island to set up a luxury resort.

“We are targeting Arugam Bay as nobody has gone there yet and it is underrated. Currently we have concentrated our projects mostly around the expressway. We expect that the infrastructure on accessibility will be developed to take our investments to the Eastern Province as well,” Abeyesinhe stated.

Commenting on the Marine Drive Hotel project, he asserted that the prime location would be ideal for the new-age business traveller who seeks convenient access to Colombo’s Central Business District, coupled with the contemporary comforts of superior design and amenities.

Noting that travel traffic to Sri Lanka and particularly to Colombo had increased steadily over the years, they expect a noteworthy influx of travellers to their Marine Drive Hotel but pointed out that price points would be a concern.

While offering his congratulations on the joint venture, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Kenichi Suganuma said there had been a growing interest from Japanese businessmen in investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

“During Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Japan recently, we had a seminar which drew over 200 businessmen who were keen on the investment possibilities in Sri Lanka,” he noted.

BOI Chairman Upul Jayasuriya said as far as Japanese investments were concerned, Belluna Ltd. is galloping fast and steadily and will very soon become the largest private investor from Japan in Sri Lanka.

“Japanese investments have now taken a different character, especially after the entry of Belluna Co. We hope that the investors of Japan will provide the prominence and importance that Sri Lanka needs at this point in time,” he stressed.

Jayasuriya also extended an invitation to the Japanese representatives in the audience to take part in an investor forum which is scheduled to be held on 15 May in Osaka, Japan.

Belluna Ltd, Japan is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), First Section, with a market capitalisation of approximately $ 800 million (stocks listed on the TSE are separated into the First Section for large companies and Second Section for mid-sized companies).

A diversified company with a core business of mail order, Belluna Ltd, Japan also holds prominence in real estate development. Beyond Tokyo, the company’s investments in real estate span the rest of the globe from Myanmar to the US, including projects in Hollywood, Los Angeles and now Sri Lanka.

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Need for extensive study on tourism carrying capacity highlighted

„Tourism Ministry secretary highlights need for study on tourism carrying capacity „Says results of such study could lead to major change in tourism policies going forward
„Govt. expects to attract 4.5mn tourists by 2020 compared to 2.05mn in 2016

Sri Lanka will require an extensive study on the country’s tourism carrying capacity, a top government official told Mirror Business recently, amid the ongoing government plans to attract higher volumes of tourists to the country.

From left: Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa and Minister John Amaratunga during a recent press briefing in Colombo 
“We will require a big study. Not only Beruwala but also Sigiriya is overcapacity and Yala is overcapacity,” Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa said, when asked how the government will deal with Beruwala and southwestern areas overcrowded with tourists.

Reports of elephant attacks on tourists and safari jeeps running over animals in Yala have highlighted the dismal situation prevailing over the country’s most popular national park.

Although the private sector in the past had speculated that the country’s carrying capacity could range between 4.5 and seven million tourists, academics have warned that given the current level of development in Sri Lanka, the carrying capacity may have already been exceeded.

According to the World Tourism Organisation, the tourism carrying capacity of a country takes into account the number of tourists a country can accommodate without causing harm to its physical, economic and socio-cultural environment and also without reducing the quality of satisfaction of a visitor.

While the country’s main tourism zone ranging across the south and west coasts is now saturated with hotels—claiming over 70 percent of the country’s established hotels— innovations such as Airbnb have expanded the carrying capacity physically, while putting greater pressure on the socio-cultural environment.

Spreading tourism development into less popular areas could increase the country’s carrying capacity, although success would hinge on the ability of Sri Lanka to create and market new or existing minor tourism attractions more successfully.

Sugathadasa said that a study could result in a major change in Sri Lanka’s tourism policies.

“In the study, if we find that our carrying capacity is 1.5 million, then we will have to see how we can attract 1.5 million highspending tourists,” he said.

The government is hoping to attract around 4.5 million tourists by 2020 compared to 2.05 million the country attracted in 2016, although a slowdown in hotel construction recorded in the latest available figures of 2015 is pointing towards the private sector working with estimates which are somewhat lower.

Sri Lanka has to conduct a study and make its decision soon, since according to research, it is more difficult to convert a highly entrenched mass-tourism destination into a high-spending premium destination, compared to developing a destination from the ground-up as a premium destination.

Some industry experts have been advocating Sri Lanka to follow the example of Bhutan and limit the entrance of tourists to the country based on the expenditure they are guaranteed to make in the country, while others have pointed out the long-term adverse impacts to Sri Lanka’s national image if the youth and budget segments are alienated.

The effects of alienating certain tourist segments are fresh in the minds of Sri Lankans, since the hotels and restaurants in some popular tourist areas either refuse to or are reluctant to serve the locals.

The government has recently been seen taking nascent steps to promote sustainable practices—which could increase the carrying capacity for Sri Lanka—although a more firm commitment by the state is yet to be seen.

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Hilton Hotels conveys Lankan expansion, promotion to Ravi K in Washington


Following the landmark deal by Hilton to manage six more hotels in Sri Lanka, senior management of the Hilton met visiting Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in Washington DC on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank and IMF meetings.

Senior Vice President of Hilton Jonas Neihardt met with Minister Karunanayake, facilitated by Nisha Biswal, Senior Advisor of Albright Stonebridge Group, to brief on measures being taken by this renowned global hospitality company of the United States to strengthen its market footprints in Sri Lanka and to discuss initiatives for further expanding its presence in Sri Lanka, described as one of the most sought-after destination in the world, at present.

The discussions centred on how Hilton Group could not only manage more hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka, but as to how the Group can promote Sri Lanka as a destination among American public, and worldwide.

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