Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka Travel’ Category

Emirates A380 arrival boosts BIA

01Marking a milestone in Sri Lanka’s airport and aviation industry, a one-off Emirates A380 commercial flight landed on Monday at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake, a development which will bolster the image of the airport and its services. Arranged to celebrate BIA’s recently resurfaced and upgraded runway, the special A380 flight operated as EK654 from Dubai and replaced the B777 usually deployed by Emirates on flights to Sri Lanka.

It was the first time over 500 passengers came to Sri Lanka on a single flight. Transport and Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva was the Chief Guest whilst Emirates Senior Vice President Commercial – West Asia and Indian Ocean, Ahmed Khoory was Guest of Honour

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Colombo ranked among top 5 most improved cities in the world

Sri Lanka’s latest development efforts have resulted in Colombo standing tall as one the top five most improved cities in the world according to a survey carried out by The Economist Group.
The Global Livability Report 2017 released by ‘The Economist Intelligence Unit’ (EIU), the group’s research and analysis division, showed that Colombo stood at fifth place in the list of ‘five biggest improvers’ for having successfully transformed its landscape over the last five years.

In the ranking, Colombo stood behind Tehran in Iran, Dubai in United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, and Harare in Zimbabwe.

While Sri Lanka ranked 124 out of 140 in the Global Livability Report 2017, it received an overall rating of 51 where the ideal rating is 100.

The top five livable cities were Melbourne in Australia, Vienna in Austria, and Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto.  The fifth position was jointly secured by another Canadian city, Calgary, and Adelaide in Australia. Meanwhile, the five least livable cities according to the rankings were Damascus in Syria, Lagos in Nigeria, Tripoli in Libya, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The report highlighted that cities moving up the ranking were located largely in countries that have enjoyed periods of relative stability after previously reported drops in livability, and in that cluster, cities included were, Kiev in Ukraine, Tripoli in Libya and Colombo.

However, it was pointed out that improvements have been marginal and have not seen livability recover from previous levels or resulted in large shifts up the ranking.

Although the most livable cities in the world remain largely unchanged, it was noted that there has been movement within the top tier of livability. Of the 65 cities with scores of 80 or more, six
have seen a change in score in the past 12 months.

Overall, the global average livability score has fallen by 0.8 percent to 74. 8 percent over the past five years.

“Weakening stability has been a key factor in driving this decrease. The average global stability score has fallen by 2 percent over the past five years, from 73.4 percent in 2012 to 71.4 percent now,” the report stated.

While most cities in the top tier have registered improvements in their scores, two of them, Manchester in the UK and Stockholm in Sweden, have seen their scores decline as a result of recent terrorist attacks.

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Morning safaris permitted into Wilpattu National Park again

sdxcxcxThe decision to ban safaris into Wilpattu National Park on account of the ongoing drought was reversed by the Minister of Wildlife after extensive consultations with the Minister of Tourism and the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).

The outcome is a favourable one for all stakeholders wherein morning safaris will now be permitted into the national park. This informed and decision reached through consensus by all stakeholders reflects an ideal collaboration between the public and private sector bodies for a beneficial solution for the sector and the economy.

“We are deeply grateful to the Tourism Ministry and Minister of Tourism, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife for this decision. We are wholly supportive of their concern for ensuring sustainability of the national park and its flora and fauna. The decision to permit only morning safaris has halted an adverse impact on hundreds of pre booked tours to the national park and has also avoided a negative perception amongst tourists. While thanking the officials, we reaffirm our support to their concern about the impact of drought on the residents of the park and we are supporting the cause to our fullest extent by donating two water pumps to the Wilapttu NP this week in order to assist with irrigating the ponds in the park,” explained Nishad Wijetunga of SLAITO.

Before arriving at this decision the Department of Wildlife appointed a specialist team and invited representatives from SLAITO and the Tourism Department on the team to assess the water availability situation in the park. This inclusive initiative by the Department of Wildlife was hailed by all concerned. Considering that the park still retains 40-50% of its water source, the team recommended the reopening of the park for morning safaris, so that animals in the park would not be inconvenienced for the rest of the day.

Over time, as the situation improves, the park could be opened for evening safaris as well. This joint consensus is a pioneering and ideal approach to ensure all stakeholders are consulted in matters that can have an impact on livelihoods and the economy. In this instance, while the mandate of the Wildlife Department is conservation and the mandate of the Tourism Ministry and SLAITO is tourism, the three parties came together in an open and transparent way to find a workable win-win situation for the industry.

As the apex body for in-bound tourism and established to promote and foster the rapid and long term growth of tourism in Sri Lanka by providing and maintaining a high standard of excellence in the services provided for the comfort and convenience of the tourist in all aspects, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) champions industry causes.

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Sri Lanka’s tourism in the regional context


By Research

Intelligence Unit, Colombo

The tourism growth of Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase from 1.79 million visitors in 2015 to 2.05 million visitors in 2016 whilst tourism related income generated has also increased significantly to become a vital contributor to the economy. Recent governments have initiated lots of infrastructure development initiatives that have helped to boost tourism such as the expansion of the Bandaranayke International Airport, the Southern Expressway and more recently, the Central Expressway which is set to further promote travel from Colombo to the central and northern places of interest once completed in 2020.

However, from the perspective of attracting international investors to Sri Lanka to invest, build and operate hotel and leisure projects, Sri Lanka is in a very competitive market. Whilst Sri Lanka’s tourist industry is still at a nascent stage of growth in terms of tourist numbers, the average daily rates and the revenues per room remain competitive within the overall Asian landscape. Moreover, despite the slow-down in the growth of arrivals since 2011, the island’s hotels still enjoy occupancy levels of around 70%, only bettered by Singapore.

In this context, the island is justifiably still within the prime target range for international hotel chains and developers as the market seeks its equilibrium. However, there are opportunities and risks from and within both geographic locations as well as market segments within Sri Lanka. For instance, we can note that the Western, Southern and Central provinces dominate the hotel inventory and new approvals index but investors will need to match their location feasibility with the emerging trends as well as be aware of entering geographic areas that have the highest future potential.

In a regional context, operating within the Asian space also has a positive side for countries that are quick on the uptake. For example, in July 2017, the Indian government introduced new goods and services taxes (GST) that have already witnessed the higher end of the Indian hotel industry being hit with up to 28% GST. Consequently, it has been reported that many corporates have already cancelled their MICE (meetings, incentives conferences and exhibitions) events and are looking at Thailand or Sri Lanka as an alternative option.

IN-1.1MICE tourism is important for Sri Lanka and for Colombo and accounted for around 20,000 visitors. Similarly, health tourism has been growing at very positive levels as has the market share of business travel. Nevertheless, the pleasure travellers still make up some 83% of the market and are by far the most important market segment for the industry. Key markets include the UK, Western Europe, India and China.

From the demand perspective, both the private sector and the government will need to keep on inventing and initiating new ideas that will serve towards putting the island firmly on the map in a competitive international arena. In this regard, tourism marketing and promotion is as important as introducing easy visa systems and tourism safety initiatives. Whilst private sector initiatives and positive word of mouth feedback will help, a sustained effort will need the backing of key government agencies. In a sensitive international market that is dominated by social media and mass communication, a rise in dengue incidents for example can have a significant and immediate impact on bookings, as we have witnessed recently. In conclusion, the target of attracting four million tourists to Sri Lanka by 2020 seems realistic and archivable especially given that previous targets have for the most part been achieved and even bettered where the arrival numbers are concerned. However, given the limitations in the country’s infrastructure which is still in the process of being rolled out as well as a scarcity of ‘things to do’, especially for children, any serious challenge to the neighbouring destinations is not expected as far as the volumes are concerned.

Herein lies opportunity. On the one hand, an environment where the volumes are growing despite there being gaps in the market, especially for theme and amusement parks, should encourage developers into the leisure sector to cater to both the foreign visitors as well as the local tourist. On the other hand, it would be sensible for the policy makers to pursue quality rather than quantity, at least in the medium term until the infrastructure improvement efforts has made further progress and we have better connectivity in terms of drive times between major places of attraction.

However, there will be challenges in the drive to focus on quality in the absence of stricter controls and regulations that need to be designed in order to protect both the tourist and the islands natural environment. For example, one recent RIU study on Kalpitiya on the West Coast of the island has highlighted a huge potential for developing the tourism sector based on water sports and wild life and at the same time highlighted very serious concerns on sustaining an extremely sensitive natural environment characterised by lagoons, sandbanks, beaches, whales, dolphins and other marine life. Similarly, we can note that the Yala Wildlife reserve is currently swamped with an unlimited number of safari vehicles that have led to traffic jams within the reserve. When asked about the negative impact of this over-supply of safari vehicles, the officials claimed that there is currently no regulation in place to limit the number of vehicle despite the danger they pose to the wildlife its self. Clearly, myopic polices, or the lack thereof, will only lead to a cannibalisation of the very resources that have huge economic value to the country’s economy. The only solution is for both the public and private sector to work together in order to protect and expand the natural environment which will serve to position Sri Lanka at the higher end of the tourism market in the region which in turn will help to realise the true potential of the industry as a leading economic asset.

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Striking growth in Lithuanian tourists to Sri Lanka in 2017

profileUntitled-1An unprecedented increase of tourists from the pocket-sized Baltic nation to Sri Lanka, a growth of more than 30% per year to a destination long been unheard of among Lithuanians, is indeed a notable narration. Moreover, this remarkable achievement has revived prospects for Lithuania-Sri Lanka relations.

Sri Lanka is fast growing as a popular tourist destination among Lithuanian travellers. The Pearl of the Indian Ocean has already achieved substantial growth in tourism in the past few years, especially among European tourists. However, the popularity of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination among Lithuanians was in a relatively modest stage for many years. The Honorary Consulate of Lithuania in Sri Lanka, in the last two years has taken necessary steps to uplift this deficit through various projects and plans re-branding Sri Lanka as a top tourist destination among Lithuanians.

The Consulate is extremely pleased to announce that these immense efforts are gradually yielding expected results. In 2013 and 2014, the Lithuanian travellers to Sri Lanka were 1405 and 1858 respectively, a growth of 32.2%. And from 2015 to 2016, the growth was 34.5%, with the total topping at 2,372 tourists in 2016.

From January to June 2017, the arrivals have depicted a 31.2% growth compared to the same period in 2016. So far in 2017, 1442 Lithuanian tourists have visited the paradise island and it is expected to grow higher closer to November and December due to the extreme winters in Lithuania. The growth in the past two years is truly significant, considering the fact that Lithuania is a tiny nation with a mere population of 2.8 million.

Many destinations in Sri Lanka are popular among young Lithuanians, especially enthusiasts in adventure, water sports, and hiking. Many Lithuanians tourists are backpackers who travel around Sri Lanka, relishing the beauty of the island.

Kanchana Kodituwakku, Communications Director of the Lithuanian Consulate in Sri Lanka stated, “This momentous makeover has complimented with the progressive growth of Sri Lankans travelling to Lithuania. Many Sri Lankans travel to Lithuania for tourism, medication, higher studies, investment and jobs. The unique feature of Lithuania to attract Sri Lankans has been chiefly centred on the relatively less cost with high living standards among its European counterparts. Lithuania is ranked among the top countries in Europe for affordable travelling, quality higher education, excellent investment climate and high standards of ICT, Research and Development. In 2016, Lithuania was ranked as the country with the fastest public Wi-Fi in the world.”

The Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania in Sri Lanka will continue to promote tourism, which is a cornerstone in diplomatic, social, political and cultural relations between Sri Lanka and Lithuania.

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Air India connects Colombo and Varanasi with non-stop flight

010304India’s National Carrier Air India has begun non-stop services between the scared city of Varanasi and Colombo.

The 180-seater inaugural A320 flight from Varanasi was accorded a ceremonial water salute as it landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday.

Air India said the flight will herald a new era in aviation and tourism especially for pilgrims between the two countries.

The twice weekly flights will operate on Fridays and Sundays as per the following schedule.

Departure from Varanasi 1235 hours and arrival in Colombo at 1555 hours.

Departure from Colombo 1655 hours and arrival in Varanasi at 2020 hours.

Varanasi is the holiest of seven sacred religious cities (Saptha Puri) Saranath where englightend one Buddha gave his first discourse to five ascetics is just 10 kilometers away. The city on the banks of River Ganges is dotted with over 87 Ghats and is home to 23,000 temples. The famous ones being Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and the Durga Temple. The city also boasts of world renowned Benaras Hindu University.

Air India already operates daily flights between Chennai and Colombo and Delhi and Colombo.

Air India occupies a special place in the global and Indian aviation scenario. It pioneered the aviation in India and its history is synonymous with the history of civil aviation in India. Air India is not a mere airline that transports passengers, baggage and cargo. It is a multi-faceted organisation.

The aviation infrastructure it has created over the years is a testimony of its contribution. Apart from servicing of all its aircraft in-house with its own engineering facilities, Air India also undertakes ground handling services of many airlines in many cities in India.

Air India has grown to become a mega international airline with a network of 72 domestic and 45 international destinations across the USA, Europe, Australia, Far-East and South-East Asia and the Gulf. The airline’s domestic network covers destinations, including far-flung areas of the North-East, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Air India, today, flies one of the youngest, state-of-the-art, fleet of aircraft comprising a mix of the wide-body Boeing B777s, B747s, its latest acquisition- the B787 Dreamliner and the narrow body Airbus A321s, A320s and A319 aircraft.

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Aitken Spence Travels, Lanka’s leading DMC at World Travel Awards

Aitken Spence Travels was named as Sri Lanka’s leading destination management company at the 24th annual World Travel Awards held in the Maldives recently.

Aitken Spence Travels is Sri Lanka’s leading inbound tourism company which marked its 40th anniversary recently. The company, a joint venture between conglomerate Aitken Spence PLC and TUI, the world’s number one integrated tourism company, served 153,000 visitors to Sri Lanka, during its last financial year.

The World Travel Awards acknowledges, rewards and celebrates excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence.

In addition to winning the Sri Lanka’s Leading Travel Agency 2017 category at the awards, overcoming other key local competitors, Aitken Spence Travels was also nominated for Asia’s Leading Destination Management Company in 2017.

“We are extremely pleased to share this global recognition with our staff and value chain partners whose shared passion for excellence has helped Aitken Spence Travels to chart its path over four decades. We will continue to work with our partners in making Sri Lanka a sought-after destination in Asia. As the leading DMC in Sri Lanka we will actively engage in a comprehensive destination marketing activity across traditional and emerging markets to achieve this objective”, said Aitken Spence Travels Managing Director Nalin Jayasundera.

With a legacy of expanding Sri Lanka’s tourism presence beyond traditional markets and producing some the most respected professionals in the industry, Aitken Spence Travels is the only travel company in Sri Lanka to win the Presidential Award for the Best Destination Management Company and Professional Conference Organizer for three consecutive years and to enter the Hall of Fame.

The company handles 60% of the cruise market in Sri Lanka bringing in much needed impetus to the tourism industry.

Aitken Spence Travels has the most modern and largest fleet of vehicles to serve tourists to visiting Sri Lanka. Winner of many PATA gold awards including the Most Innovative Excursion, Aitken Spence Travels was the first DMC to obtain ISO 9001:2008.

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