Archive for January, 2018

Big draw for Rawana Falls in Ella

Local and foreign tourists enjoy the breeze on 26 January 2018 near Rawana Falls in Ella which is being promoted as a major tourist attraction – Pix by Pradeep Pathirana

Source :



Waters Edge and Melchers to create Fantasy Island in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s premier culinary and entertainment hub Waters Edge, together with Melchers Project Management Ltd., last week announced plans to build a theme park overlooking the waters of the Diyawannna.

The news conference to announce the plans was held under the patronage of Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka, Chairman of Waters Edge Chamath de Silva, General Manager of Waters Edge Rohan Fernandopulle and representatives of Melchers.

From left: Michael Perera, Alexander Melchers, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, Chairman of Waters Edge Chamath de Silva and SumedhaRathnayake

Speaking at the news conference Chairman Chamath de Silva said: “In an attempt to become the premier entertainment hub of this nation, Waters Edge, together with Melchers Project Management Ltd, will create a theme park which will be family-oriented and a place where children and adults can enjoy themselves with state-of-the-art attractions.”

Distinguished guests after the signing of the agreement

Fantasy Island at the Edge will feature a culmination of the three main elements of air, water and land. The Giant Ferris Wheel will take revellers to the skies, while the water park will include thrilling rides and the snow chalet will take visitors to an ice kingdom of wonder.

The initiative of the entertainment hub and theme park is the vision of Minister Ranawaka and part of the Megapolis Developmet plan. The project will be carried out under the direct supervision of Chairman De Silva.

Minister Ranawaka inspecting the model of Fantasy Island made by the staff of Waters Edge

Bringing many a dream to life, the Snow Chalet will be built with German technology and will provide a unique indoor snow experience. Meanwhile, the water park is designed so that even a non-swimmer can enjoy the slides, waterfalls, water climbs, surprise fountains and so much more.

The 40-metre high Ferris Wheel will be one of the main attractions at the Fantasy Island with a viewing tower that will provide a bird’s-eye view of the Sri Lankan coastline as well as the central hills. This attraction has no age restrictions and a typical ride will be a fun-filled 15 minutes. Visible from anywhere in Colombo, this will truly be the main attraction at the theme park.

Alexander Melchers and Harsha Peiris exchanging the signed agreements

With a maximum capacity of 300 children at a time, the water park will also be ideal for school excursions and even birthday parties. The Snow Chalet meanwhile can hold up to 50 children at a time for a completely novel experience.

The development project aims to create a recreation, leisure and sports facility on the far side of the water front. The centre will facilitate more adventure sports such as kayaking, rowing and wind surfing among many others. This project will be coordinated and supervised by the Strategic Initiatives Department of Waters Edge.

Source :

ASEAN Tourism Ministers stir the pot for gastro tourism in Southeast Asia for 2018

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The ASEAN Tourism Forum ended on a high 26 January, with ASEAN tourism ministers itemising a list of achievements for the region’s robust travel and tourism sector.

Lauding the completion of a strong VisitASEAN@50 campaign in 2017, which generated a better than expected response, ASEAN’s 10 tourism ministers were optimistic about new marketing campaigns for ASEAN tourism in 2018 and beyond.

The ministers revealed the following new priorities.

There will be a new emphasis on promoting the many aspects of gastronomic travel, as outlined in the minsters’ Joint Declaration on Gastronomy and Tourism. The declaration notes that, “gastronomic tourism helps to create a strong sense of place for branding and marketing destinations, and also assists in maintaining and preserving local heritage and identity, and protecting biodiversity”.

Cruise tourism will be developed further due to its high economic impacts. There will be renewed focus on the effectiveness of destination management, specifically environmental and social issues and the welfare of local communities that cruise tourism touches.

Cross border bus and coach traffic will also be promoted further, following an agreement by ASEAN Transport Ministers to ease restrictions. The ministers noted that recommendations from studies on recognising domestic driving licences in neighbouring ASEAN countries could boost tourism significantly, especially if there were road enhancements along major tourism corridors.

Ministers noted that the quality of work supplied by tourism professionals throughout Southeast Asia will continue to rise, in part, due to the completion of all 242 ‘toolboxes’ for job training. Jakarta will host a permanent secretariat in order to improve and unite tourism industry standards across ASEAN.
Positive Legacy of VisitASEAN@50 Campaign

The Tourism Ministers at ATF were buoyed by public and travel industry response to VisitASEAN@50 campaign in 2017. Based on preliminary figures from member states, ASEAN is expected to receive 125 million international visitors, exceeding the target of 121 million international tourist arrivals to the region set for VisitASEAN@50.

If confirmed, this new record will indicate a growth of 8.4% from 2016. Arrivals were dominated by intra-ASEAN travel, accounting for 42% of total international arrivals.

Targets for length of stay and revenue were also achieved, with ASEAN averaging 7.98 days of stay for international tourists, generating an estimated $ 93 billion from tourism in 2017.

“As we celebrate this most recent success,” said Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister for Tourism and Sports of Thailand, who chaired the Ministers’ meeting, “we still recognise the scale of the task before us and the urgency in enhancing our competitiveness to achieve sustainable development. We must therefore ensure that we unite to create the synergy which brings about inclusive growth and that none of us is left behind.”

ATF 2019 will be held in Halong Bay, Viet Nam in January next year. The 2020 edition will be in Brunei Darussalam.

Source :

Sri Lanka Tourism powers first Ironman event in South Asia

The world’s leading triathlon enters the Sri Lankan market, showcasing Sri Lanka as a global destination for international sporting events.

From left: Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry Additional Secretary Deepthi Fernando, Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga, Sports Ministry Secretary Jayantha Wijerathne, Pro Am Serendib Director Yasas Heage, Pro Am Serendib Director Julian Bolling and Sports Minister Dayasiri JayasekaraThe Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) will be the title sponsor of the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Colombo Triathlon, which will be held at Galle Face Green, Colombo on February 25, 2018.

For the first time, Sri Lanka will be hosting over 850 triathletes from 63 countries. Ironman 70.3 Colombo will be the ideal platform to promote Sri Lanka to the world and showcase its readiness to host world-class sporting events.

“Ironman is one of the most conic endurance events in the world and we are happy to be associated with this event,” said Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga.

“I have no doubt this event will offer an invaluable opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase its diverse attractions, infrastructure and readiness for a wide array of sports while cementing its place as an emerging destination for high-profile sports tourism.

We were excited to see Ironman 70.3 Colombo as one of the fastest selling first-time Ironman events in Asia, being oversubscribed two months before the closing date for entries.”

“Sports inspire every human being and this glamour event – Ironman 70.3 Colombo triathlon will be a platform that persuades local athletes of every social stratum from the north to south of Sri Lanka to form teams and participate in this event that requires endurance, determination and skill.

Ironman is a great platform to promote peace and goodwill amongst both local and international athletes as it will attract people from all parts of the world to come together to challenge themselves and share compassion and sportsmanship with their fellow athletes. The Sports Ministry is proud to have teamed up with Sri Lanka Tourism to make this dream come true,” said Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara.

“The opportunity to be the title sponsor of the first edition of Ironman 70.3 Colombo triathlon was one we could not pass up,” said SLTPB Managing Director Sutheash Balasubramanium.

“It is part of our strategy at Sri Lanka Tourism to diversify the offering Sri Lanka has to give the world. Yes, we do have the perfect destination for leisure tourism but we need to revisit our offering as a country with the growing global sports tourism market.

The aligning with Ironman is part of our vision to make Sri Lanka the leading sports destination in South Asia. The biggest sell is that bringing events like Ironman 70.3 triathlon to our country, we’re creating awareness amongst a new affluent audience, which is into sports tourism.”

Sri Lanka Tourism has gained a landmark achievement by hosting events such as Ironman 70.3, gaining global recognition and also highlighting Sri Lanka as a preferred sports destination. This is the event of this nature to be held on a larger scale, attracting a large number of highspending foreign visitors.

The profile of the average IROF participant is that 90 percent of them are professional in numerous fields such as legal, retail, education, marketing, technology, medical and financial. Further, the Ironman participants obtain an average household income of US $ 175,000 and the average age is 41. The percentage of male participants in Ironman is 71 percent and the female participation is 29 percent.

Ironman 70.3 is one of the most recognised brands in the world, attracting high-spending foreign tourists from across the globe. During the Ironman event, Sri Lanka will see over 2000 athletes and their families visiting the country. The top six participating countries for Ironman 70.3 Colombo are India with 133 triathletes, United Kingdom – 69, France – 46, Australia – 34, USA – 28 and Singapore – 28.

“As a company dedicated to quality and compassion, Pro Am Serendib is looking forward to working with the key government organisations that have been tremendously supportive towards our initiative. We are looking forward to provide Ironman 70.3 Colombo athletes with a safe and rewarding experience.

The race begins with a single-loop, 1.9km swim starting at the beach adjoining Galle Face Green, followed by a flat and fast 90km bike course and a 21.1km run course that offers scenic country views and a fantastic finish in front of Gave Face Green,” said Pro Am Serendib Director Yasas Hewage.

Ironman 70.3 is organised by Pro Am Serendib. The title sponsor of the event is the SLTPB. There are many local and international companies that have partnered the event, which will help boost the local economy. The partnering companies include MAS, Shangri-la Colombo, MTV/MBC Group, Dilmah, Siddhalepa, Advantis, Ceyllinco VIP, Hayleys Tours, Wijeya Group and SIS.

Source :

SLAITO hands over impactful report which proposes equitable solution to manage over-visitation at Yala

The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) at recent meeting with Minister of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs John Anaratunga and the Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, to discuss the current situation in Yala,National Park, handed over a detailed Report to the two ministers that sets out how the issue of over-visitation of Yala can be optimally managed to protect interests of all stakeholders.

This report ascertains how the national park impacts various stakeholders and analyzes economic and environmental benefits that accrue to these stakeholders. Finally, it suggests an equitable balance based on established sustainable development principles and guidelines.

Curtailing the entry of vehicles to the Yala National Park to minimise the impact of tourists on the environment deprives many local stakeholders of their livelihoods, but short periods of increased visitation will do no major harm to the environment and wild life, provided wild life viewing is done in a strict, and responsible manner following the park rules. The report notes that while Yala National Park is a valuable national asset and should be nurtured for future generations, at the same time, the park supports a great many people and their livelihoods.

SLAITO is committed to exploring solutions that preserve the park while sustaining the industry. A new token system in place which involves the physical purchase of tickets from the park by queuing up in the early hours of the morning is in place. SLAITO discussed this matter at length with the ministers and the representatives of the DWC who were extremely corporative and are now in a dialogue with SLAITO to resolve this matter.

Apart from the proposals in the report, SLAITO believes in training the drivers on how to sustain the park, which is their only livelihood. It is also recommended that appropriate penalties and suspensions of drivers who do not abide by the park rules are enforced.

Going ahead, the Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, requested SLAITO representation on the Advisory Committee on Wildlife Conservation in order to advice and give suggestions to uplift Wildlife Conservation from a tourism point of view. SLAITO as a responsible body representing the formal sector of inbound tourism in Sri Lanka is very keen to partner the DWC in implementing proposals in the report.

SLAITO firmly believes in a joint consensus with all stakeholders when finding resolutions to issues and has always worked in harmony with the public sector in ensuring sustainable growth in the industry.

Source :

New Convention Centre, increasing events in Colombo to boost tourism

Longer opening hours for pubs and restaurants to sell liquor and streamlining the liquor licence process which last week raised the ire of President Maithripala Sirisena and some hardliners, were in fact recommendations made by a committee to improve the tourism infrastructure in the country.

It was one of many recommendations by a 13-member tourism taskforce appointed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in June last year. The taskforce was chaired by Hari Selvanathan and comprised ( then) Tourism Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa, ( then) Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Paddy Withana, Harry Jayawardena, Udaya Nanayakkara, Merril J. Fernando, Dhammika Perera, Abbas Esufally, Shiromal Cooray, Geof f rey Dobbs, Dinesh Weerakkody, Dileep Mudadeniya and Thilak Weerasinghe.

Industry sources said these recommendations led to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera issuing an order two weeks ago extending opening hours at bars, pubs and small restaurants. At the same time the Minister scrapped an archaic law since 1955 which prohibited the sale of alcohol to women, women being employed in pubs, and also women selling liquor, for example being hired as bartenders at hotels, etc.

However, three days later on Sunday, the President told an election rally that he was not happy at the changes, that the Buddhist clergy was opposed to it and then ordered the old laws to be retained. The notification cancelling the Finance Minister’s extended opening hours rule and connected legislation is to be issued once the latter, who is abroad, returns.

Industry bodies like the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Hotels’ Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) were disappointed with the turn of events, initially welcoming the change in opening hours and that women would be allowed to work in pubs. It turned to disappointment after the President re- introduced the liquor ban on women and extended opening hours.

The tourism taskforce made a number of recommendations – all aimed at making Colombo a happening city and attractive not only to western travellers but those in Asia, particularly India and China.

The team undertook a study to understand “barriers and enabling factors to develop a strategic action plan to enhance events in Colombo.”

Recommendations by the taskforce which had titled the document as“A Policy Recommendation to Make Colombo an Event-Friendly City” included many to improve events and activities in the capital after examining how other countries had succeeded.

The success in tourism in Vietnam was examined and how the government successfully handled the new campaign under the tagline “Vietnam Timeless Charm.” The “Exciting Vietnam” campaign launched in 2016 was aimed at boosting international arrivals and promoting Vietnam as a “safe, friendly, attractive and exciting tourist destination.” This covered 14 events.

Vietnamese tourist arrivals have grown 100 per cent since 2009 and has risen to 10 million in 2016 from 2 million in 2000. Comparatively Sri Lanka’s growth in 2000-2016 showed a rise from less than a million arrivals to 2 million in 2016.

The report examined other markets and noted that while Sri Lanka has the potential to double the current tourist arrivals, Colombo will (eventually) be the city that will have the largest number of tourists.

The objectives of the study was to make Colombo an entertainment hub and lively city for tourists, examine what was holding back this promise and what strategic steps needed to be taken by Sri Lanka Tourism to improve events in Colombo.

Initially a meeting was held with key stakeholders which was the first time the government of Sri Lanka took an initiative to consult the industry experts.

During the discussion, the events were broken down to live entertainment – music shows, dance performances, theatre/ drama performances, festivals/ carnivals and concerts.

In the business and trade segment, it was broken into the MICE sector – meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

The different stakeholders identified were; event producers, event suppliers, venue owners, artist/ performers, restaurants/ pubs/ clubs owners. The report said other indirect stakeholders include travel, hospitality, venues, technology, media and communication were not interviewed for the study.

Among the key barriers identified within the industry were:

Lack of appropriate venues with adequate facilities Time-consuming, lengthy procedures/approvals
Difficulty in obtaining liquor licences
Taxation issues
Lack of criteria to enable proper standards/quality
Lack of sufficient marketing and promotion campaign (MICE)

Lack of coordination between various stakeholders
Lack of support from Sri Lanka Tourism

On room capacity in Colombo, it was noted that there would be 4,135 new rooms added by 2021 (4-5 stars) from the current 5,367 rooms (3-5 stars).

The report said new rooms were coming from Cinnamon Life ( 800), Hyatt ( 559), ITC ( 300), Marino Sands (270), NEXT (200), Radisson (300), Ritz Carlton (200), Shangri- La ( 550- already operational), Welcome Hotel ( 300), Sheraton ( 306) and 4 Seasons (350).

The taskforce found there were many issues pertaining to event venues in the city.

Among these problems were lack of appropriate venues with adequate facilities to accommodate large crowds; lack of a venue to accommodate over 5000 people for large shows/ events; existing venues are fully booked and it was very difficult to get dates while open air grounds are currently used to accommodate large crowds.

The high costs incurred to build temporary fixtures were also recorded citing the cost for the Colombo Jazz Festival being Rs. 10 million and other musical events being Rs.7 to 8 million.

Some venues, it was observed, didn’t allow to fix structures and there were too many restrictions. Also there was inadequate space for parking, inadequate facilities such as changing area, backstage area, etc and issues with seating arrangements.

The lack of sanitation facilities, changing area, backstage, etc and difficulty in hiring skilled security guards was observed.

Event organisers had suggested creating a large venue on the grounds that there was increasing demand for venues; the BMICH and the SLECC ( Convention Centre) was fully booked for the next two years, there was an increase in the “going- out” culture and corporates were organising events for the public.

It was also noted that international artists refuse to perform with a small audience size.

Stating that there was a lot of potential to expand events, the report said international audiences, particularly within regions, can be targeted and tickets need to be priced higher.

It recommended that an ideal venue needs to have the following features:

A convention centre with a versatile staging space Around 4 – 5 acres to accommodate around 20,000 people

Preferred venue location is within the territory of Colombo. However Battaramulla, Kotte and Dehiwela were also recommended

While constructing the venue, entertainment industry stakeholders need to be consulted for the design and structural related specifications and the required technicalities Among difficulties faced by event organisers, the following were observed: Government bureaucracy and delays in obtaining the required approvals; protocols are followed without any rationale; huge risks are involved as there are various obstacles in obtaining approvals even after paying artists; and purposeful disturbances with the intention of obtaining bribes, one example being Police requests to stop the event at 10 pm.

On liquor licenses, the committee noted that it’s very difficult to obtain liquor licenses within the Colombo, due to the close proximity to schools and religious places and recommended that special event or one day liquor licenses /permits need to be provided whereas, for the other industries such as the restaurants/ pubs catering to the foreigners need to relax its liquor related laws.

The lack of coordination between various stakeholder groups – hotels- travel operators- restaurants/ pubs- artistsevent producers- Sri Lanka Tourism/ Government was observed as a serious issue.

It was recommended that 5 acres of land be allocated to the private sector through competitive bidding to build a multipurpose convention centre.

It was also recommended that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) should relax the current liquor policy enabling the Excise Department to issue day-licences for beer and wine.

Sri Lanka Tourism was urged to develop a policy for supporting events and such a policy should be transparent and published on the website. “It should include type of events that tourism will support, criteria, the type of support that can be given and publicity should be given using Sri Lanka Tourism channels,” the report noted.

Source :

Flameback Eco Lodge Weerawila to open February end

Adding another luxury boutique hotel to the Sri Lankan hospitality sector, Flameback Eco Lodge will be opened in Weerawila, end of February.

The hotel offers 6 eco friendly lodges and one lodge suite all built on top boulders with all modern luxury. The tents for the lodgers have being imported from South Africa and each lodge has its own private wooden deck overlooking the Weerawila Lake.

The suite has a 10×10 ft private plunge pool with jacuzzi and also a lounge area.

Flameback Eco Lodge has a swimming pool with an infinity view of the lake and has an organic garden where the guests would be given an opportunity to select their own vegetables and fruits for meals.

The main restaurant consists of an elegant dining setting overlooking the lake and has a seating capacity for up to 25 guests. Some of the outdoor and indoor recreation includes bird watching, nature trail, cycling, fresh water fishing in the lake, pool table and a library.

All the lodges offers split type air-conditioning, tea/coffee making facility, safe deposit box, bathroom amenities, hairdryer, hot/cold water, Wi-Fi and many other amenities. Managing Director, Fameback eco lodge, Dulani Guruge said that they have invested nearly Rs. 100 million to buil this property.

“Our forward booking is very positive and we hope to add more lodges by the end of the year. In addition we will also introduced an Ayurveda spa to the hotel inventory,” she said.

The hotel also hosts private dinner arranged by the lake or the lodge and also, safari and village excursions to offer a glimpse of the traditions of the Deep South to tourists.

She said their main market is from Australia where they had done extensive marketing. The direct flights launched by SriLankan too are a great advantage to woo Austrians to the hotel. In addition we also have a good response from both UK and the European market.”

Source :