Archive for October, 2017

Aitken Spence Travels to bring 20 charter flights from Russia this season

For the second consecutive year, Aitken Spence Travels will be bringing in 20 charter flights from Russia for the annual season. The first charter flight for 2017/18, a Boeing 767 operated by Royal Flight arrived in Sri Lanka on Friday, 27 October carrying 325 tourists from Russia. The charter operation was realised through the longstanding partnership between Coral Travel, a leading travel company in Russia and Aitken Spence Travels, Sri Lanka’s largest travel company. Aitken Spence served an unprecedented 153,000 visitors to Sri Lanka, during its last financial year.

The tourists who arrived on the charter flight were given a warm traditional welcome by presenting the national flower of the country and by a welcome performance by traditional dancers. The charter operation from Russia this year is expected to generate around 30,000 room nights, via a network of 55 hotel partners of Aitken Spence Travels.

“Due to the difficult market conditions last year, the Russian arrivals to the country were not positive. However, Coral Travel has maintained their confidence in the destination by continuing the charter program this year by working with Aitken Spence Travels to operate the Charter. The numbers from the Russian and CIS regions to Aitken Spence Travels has grown by 86% as a result of a very strong promotional campaign carried out by our partners,” said Aitken Spence Travels Vice President Darell De Crusz.

Aitken Spence Travels Managing Director Nalin Jayasundera commented, “This Charter will be operating thrice monthly once again, in cooperation with our longstanding partner – Coral Travels. We must convey our appreciation to the dynamism and the commitment of Coral Travel for believing in Sri Lanka as a destination. Whilst the destination faces many challenges, we believe that strong partnerships fostered over the years and aggressive marketing is the way forward.”

Significantly Coral Travel celebrated their 25th anniversary this year and has continued to offer the best resorts and hotels in 35 countries of the world including Sri Lanka. The brand Coral Travel is positioned in the Russian market as a brand of reliability and quality and has had a strong and healthy partnership with Aitken Spence Travels who have been in the DMC business for four decades.

Pix by Kumarasiri Prasad – Airport Correspondent

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SriLankan launches daily flights to Melbourne

SriLankan Airlines yesterday extended its route network with the launch of daily non-stop services to Melbourne, providing travellers with a convenient option to visit Australia via rapid connections in Colombo.

SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias said: “We at SriLankan Airlines are delighted to launch this new service, which we have no doubt will be of great convenience to all segments of travellers, including the large number of Sri Lankans domiciled in Australia, the many Australians who love to travel overseas and people throughout Asia who visit Down Under.”

Sri Lankan expatriates and students form a large and significant community in Australia, and frequently travel back to their native country.

Many of them reside in Melbourne and other cities in the state of Victoria and neighbouring New South Wales, with smaller numbers throughout the rest of Australia and New Zealand.

SriLankan Airlines CEO Captain Suren Ratwatte said: “We have been extending our route network in a systemic manner throughout Asia – from the Middle East to the Far East – and can now provide Australian travellers excellent options in connectivity, with one-stop journeys to the most popular destinations via Colombo.”

A member of the prestigious oneworld global airline alliance, SriLankan offers convenient connections to 14 cities throughout India, nine in the Middle East and other destinations such as Male and Gan Island in the Maldives and Seychelles. SriLankan also operates one-stop twice-daily services between Sri Lanka and Australia with its codeshare partners Qantas and Malaysia Airlines.

Passengers will enjoy the comforts of the airline’s modern Airbus A330 aircraft between Melbourne and Colombo, with flatbeds in Business Class, sophisticated in-flight entertainment and world-class service provided by SriLankan’s award-winning cabin crew.

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Aitken Spence Travels welcomes Sweden tourists

Aitken Spence Travels commenced its Scandinavian winter season by welcoming a group from Sweden. The group who has combined work with leisure will be visiting exciting sites and places of the country once the conference is over. During their week’s stay a glimpse of village life, visiting Udawalawe to enjoy sights of the majestic Sri Lankan elephants and relaxing and enjoying the golden sandy beaches of Bentota will be part of their tour. Seen here is the group on their arrival at the BIA after being welcomed by officials of Aitken Spence Travels.

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Galle Beach Hotel set to transform heritage city

The soon to be completed Galle Beach Hotel the latest offering from Asia Leisure Ltd., the leisure subsidiary of Asia Capital PLC, is currently been constructed on a two-acre land consisting of 100 sea view rooms.

The hotel was designed by the award winning Japanese architect Miyake Masaki along with a-designed Studio as the main architects, NJ consultants being the MEP Consultants and MAGA Engineering Ltd. as the construction partner. With the focus placed on environmental conservation, the project is currently on schedule and will be completed in 2018.

The property will include a sky bar along with a specialty rooftop restaurant, with a striking atmosphere and spectacular views .The glittering multi-hued sky bar is impeccably situated not just for the best view in Galle but as well as the best sunset. The event pavilion will serve and facilitate conferences, corporate events and private functions. Providing an environment for inspired experiences, the hotel’s abundant outdoor spaces provide various settings for different occasions – whether it is a destination wedding set under palm trees or under the moonlit beach, or a gathering of meeting delegates. The hotel’s multi-purpose event space encompasses the most extensive banquet and meeting facilities. The hotel also offers a unique swimming pool overlooking the Indian Ocean along with a pool bar, gym and spa.

“At Galle Beach Hotel travellers will be offered a spell binding experience promising rest, relaxation and complete luxury amidst a one-of-a-kind beach and inescapable views; we look forward to welcoming guests with our renowned Asia Leisure hospitality,” said Asia Capital PLC Director/Group CEO Stefan Abeyesinhe.

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Tourism Development Authority sets record straight on arrival statistics

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) in a statement recently highlighted the following points to refute the findings made against the statistics compiled by the organisation:

The relevant data with regard to tourist arrivals is obtained by SLTDA from the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system of Department of Immigration and Emigration. Though the arrival data is utilised, only the relevant categories are taken into account that are within the definition, while other categories are excluded from the statistics. Therefore, utilisation of such selected data cannot be considered as problematic.

As mentioned in the report, the survey is conducted not solely to capture earnings. There are other objectives as well. However, the survey is not the primary instrument used to formulate the tourism earnings number. Average duration and arrivals are mainly based on the data obtained from the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

In terms of the issue of the sample, it is important to highlight the fact that the selection of the sample is not totally based on the number of arrivals from respective countries. While the base of the sample is selected from a stratified sampling method it is further calculated from a model which considers the expenditure patterns of the tourist as well. Strict procedures are followed to ensure error free data and reliability tests and program validation checks are applied at the end. The rationale in selecting the relevant sample sizes from Germany and UK against India and China is rather profound than the more visible factor of the arrivals.

The data captured in the questionnaire is basically based on the 37 questions included in the questionnaire. They have been included to capture a holistic picture. However, the questionnaires are being revised on yearly basis according to the market research needs.

The questions on spending have been included to get an overall idea and not to dig into details about the expenditure of the tourists. Including such lengthy information in the survey questionnaire will not be effective in generating valid data. It is expected to obtain such detailed information from Tourism Satellite Accounting system. The preparations are already underway to conduct certain surveys for the Tourism Satellite Accounting in collaboration with Department of Census and Statistics and Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

The rationale of collecting separate data on transit passengers in this survey is that their input is also vital in terms of marketing information. Therefore, it is difficult to ignore their contribution in this regard.

Apart from the above factors the following points should be raised with regard to the methodology used for the research report of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

There is a serious issue of validity in generalising the research findings to the tourism industry of Sri Lanka, given the fact that the sample consists of only 15 in depth interviews with industry leaders and a survey of 37 industry players from limited fields whereas the tourism industry consists of 3,549 registered establishments (with SLTDA) including registered accommodations, travel agencies, restaurants, spice gardens, tourist shops, etc. Furthermore, there is no indication of these 37 industry players though the list of industry leaders has been provided. Therefore, there is a serious flaw in the methodology used for the study, which brings the authenticity of the “study” into serious question. In other words, the selection of sample and the sample size does not indicate the application of accepted scientific methods. On the surface, the content of the report seems to be a manifestation of personal opinion of the few industry stakeholders consulted.

Scientific method in research is a systematic approach to researching questions and problems through objective and accurate observation, collection and analysis of data, direct experimentation and replication of these procedures. Yet it is clearly evident that the research is subjective and biased.

The standard way of calculating the month on month growth in arrivals in many countries is by comparing the percentage changes with the corresponding month of the previous year, due to variations in tourist arrivals (peak and off peak months) that characterise the industry. Sri Lanka being a seasonal destination the above practice is the most applicable method. Yet it was noticed that in Table No. 1 the calculations of month on month growth in tourist arrivals have been calculated by considering the % change from the previous month in the same year. This type of calculation misinterprets the real situation while creating a distorted picture about the growth. Therefore, this cannot be considered as an accurate way of analysis. The below table I & II provides an authentic depiction of the M-o-M growth in arrivals.

The below Table No.iii depicts the international tourist markets in comparison to Sri Lanka. A closer look at the figures reveals that Sri Lanka has the highest average percentage change from 2008 to 2016 which indicates to the fact that Sri Lanka has a sound industry when compared to other countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and India which maintains a robust industry. A considerable growth can be seen from 2009-2016. Therefore, when considered the percentage change it is clear that Sri Lanka has achieved the highest average percentage growth of 18.4% among the countries compared. Further, Sri Lanka has achieved the highest average percentage change of increase of arrivals in 2009 and 2016, compared with the same countries in the list. Therefore, it is incorrect and misleading to conclude that Sri Lanka has fallen behind without a valid base to support the argument.

Constructive evaluation is a necessary component to evaluate and improve the performance of an institution or an industry. Yet these should be based on authentic and credible information. In the absence of credibility such evaluations can be considered as assessments that lack rigour. We would also like to bring to your notice that the Special Committee Report on Revisions of New Tourism Law (2006) highlighted that both UNWTO and PATA have recognised the Sri Lanka Tourism’s basic tourism data system as one of the best systems in the world. Further this system continues to improve with modern techniques for collating tourist information.

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Sri Lanka’s first dedicated performance art centre for tourists to open soon

Sri Lanka’s first ever dedicated performance arts centre for tourists is to open on the banks of the historic Diyawanna Oya on the outskirts of Colombo next month.

The state of the art Sri Dharanee Performance Theatre fills a huge vacuum in Sri Lanka’s cultural entertainment sector, where tourists will be treated to high quality performances of traditional Sri Lanka dance forms on a scheduled basis. Located in a scenic spot ideally suited to the arts, the massive facility has been constructed on the lines of similar attractions in cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga who was the Chief Guest at a media conference to announce the opening of the performance theatre noted that it would help “place Sri Lanka’s tourism product offering on par with international standards”.

Combined with the charm and scenic beauty of the historic Diyawanna Oya, the Waters’ Edge Recreational Complex, restaurants and adjacent shopping attractions, Sri Dharanee Performance Theatre will help create a tourism enclave in close proximity to Colombo.

“Today tourists have very few evening entertainment options in the city of Colombo. Other than casinos and a few clubs, there is no quality, wholesome entertainment on offer for tourists. Therefore the Sri Dharanee Performing Arts Center has come in at the right time. I’m sure the quality entertainment lineup that seeks to highlight our ancient history and dance forms will be appreciated by the tourists who visit the city,” said Minister Amaratunga.

The Minister observed that the new venture was in line with the Prime Minister’s vision to add value to Sri Lanka’s tourism product portfolio. “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed that every effort must be made to develop tourism. The fact that this facility will be operational by the end of this month is an added benefit in projecting Colombo as an entertainment hub for tourists,” he said.

The Sri Dharanee Center is capable of accommodating more patrons than both the BMICH and Nelum Pokuna and therefore is well placed to host large MICE events. It will provide a platform for local artistes to perform and earn a livelihood while also portraying Sri Lanka’s rich culture, history and traditions to foreign visitors.

“I want to thank the Minister of Megapolis for his cooperation and encouragement in making this project a reality. The owning company of this venture must also be commended for showing the way for tourism development in a meaningful and sustainable manner,” Minister Amaratunga said.

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Upcoming five-star golf resort and spa at Nilaveli, Trincomalee

Situated in the North Eastern suburbs of the Trincomalee district is a popular coastal resort village called Nilaveli, which is not a new name to Sri Lankans or foreigners.

The Royal Suite Villa under constructionNilaveli is home to some of the most beautiful coastlines and world renounce beaches of this little island nation. With the tourism industry picking up to its usual glory after the decline during the civil war, a number of new properties are being developed in this beautiful village. One such fabulous property, which will soon be available to those who would like to treat themselves to an escape to paradise in the arms of luxury. This property is another business venture of those behind the Blue Orchid Residencies (Luxury Apartment Complex) project in Wijerama and the Nilaveli Blue Oceanic Resort. The luxurious golf resort is owned by Lalith Amarasekara, Mauli Chandrika Amarasekara and their daughter Dr. Diana Amarasekara.

The property covers a total land area of 16 Acres facing the Nilaveli Beach overlooking a beautiful coral reef with direct access from the Trincomalee-pulmudai main road. It enters the market as a Super Luxury Golf Resort with Spa. The property is composed of four main types of residences.

Presidential Villas: There are only two of these for the whole property overlooking to coral reef and they represent a class of their own at the very height of special amenities, comfort and luxury living. Each of these villas is equipped with its own private plunge pool and Jacuzzi for the ultimate state of relaxation. These two villas are also equipped with an outdoor rain shower. These villas are highly spacious boasting a total surface area of 1000 square-feet. The villas open out to a full blown serenading view of the beach and gives its guests direct access to the beach unlike any other type of residence in the property. This is a product that is carefully designed for the elite traveler who wants to indulge in the beauty of the blue waters and the golden dunes at an intimate level in a luxurious fashion.

Royal Villas: Only second to the presidential villa in terms of size and special amenities, there are only eight of these in the property. Each one of them is generously equipped with their own plunge pool. These are also equipped with a rain shower like the presidential suites. These villas open up to a breathtaking view of the beach and are very spacious accounting for a total surface area of 760 square-feet. This product is a crossover between the highest level of luxury offered in the presidential villa and the affordability of the junior suites.

Junior Suites: The junior suites come with a total surface area of 530 square-feet and has a view that is shared by the beach and the golf course. There are 10 suites of this type in the property. The junior suite is expected to serve a wide customer base as it encompasses affordability, luxury and the bliss of the sea side and golf course in one single package.

Family Rooms: Each family room is composed of two separate rooms within them and accounts for a total surface area of 900 square-feet. The view from these rooms is shared by the golf course and the beach as seen in the case of the Junior Suites. The product is meant to cater to those looking for an oceanic escape with the whole ‘gym band’ as they popularly call it in Sri Lanka.

Other facilities that this great property has to offer are as follows: Infinity sea water swimming; A restaurant; Mini Snack Bar at the Golf Course; A Souvenir Shop; Fine dining space for six persons inside the kitchen from where they can see the chefs do their magic.

Activities that one can indulge in during their stay at the hotel include: Golfing for those who want to play a game of confidence, 15 mins boat riding to infamous pigeons island, jet ski riding for the thrill seekers, boat riding in the sea and lagoon for those in the pursuit of tranquility, diving and snorkeling for those who want to explore the world underwater, painting to bring out the artist in oneself, bird watching for those who value bio-diversity, hiking historical landmarks for those who are in the need to know and day tours services to Sigiriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

The final touch ups to make this property the best home outside of home are currently underway and the resort will soon be opened to the public.

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