Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka News’ Category

Colombo is fourth fastest-growing destination city in the world

untitled-3Colombo is the fourth Fastest-Growing Destination City in the world according to the annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index released last week.

According to the Index Sri Lanka’s commercial hub has shown a growth of 19.57% over the last seven years.

The Japanese city of Osaka has shown the strongest growth in international visitors (24.15%) while China’s Chengdu and the capital of the United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi have been ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Japanese capital Tokyo came just behind Colombo with a visitor arrival growth of 18.48%.

Overall, Thailand’s capital Bangkok was the top-ranked destination city by international overnight visitor arrivals whilst Dubai was the fourth. London was placed second followed by Paris.

Osaka was followed by Chengdu in China.

Neither Chengdu nor Colombo are in the regional top 10. MasterCard said Colombo has been experiencing a strong recovery in attracting international visitors after the ending of its civil war in 2009.

International visitor arrivals to Colombo steadily increased from 2009-2016 with a 19.6% compound annual rate of growth (CGAR) and in 2016 overnight visitor arrivals to the city are expected to reach 1.13 million. The visitors are expected to spend at least US$ 1 billion in the city.

In terms of expenses, visitors to Colombo spend 45% for accommodation and nearly 24% for food and beverages while nearly 18% spent on shopping.

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2016.

The Index provides more than a ranking of the 132 most visited cities around the world. It projects visitor volume and spend estimates for the 2016 calendar year, while delivering a deeper understanding of how people travel and spend around the world.

Thailand’s capital Bangkok is the top-ranked destination city by international overnight visitor arrivals. According to the study, Bangkok is projected to receive 21.47 million international overnight visitors in 2016 ahead of London and Paris which have been placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.

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Sri Lanka-China links forge ahead

fgjkIs this the way? Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera seems to be guiding his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after welcoming him at the Foreign Ministry yesterday. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama also joined for crucial closed-door talks before Wang delivered a statement to local media – Pic by Pradeep Pathirana 

By Uditha Jayasinghe

Kicking off the first high level visit since the new Government came into power, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday reaffirmed strong relations with Sri Lanka, pledging to sign an early Free Trade Agreement, continue large scale infrastructure and private investment, and smooth-over potential India concerns.

Wang met with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama and his counterpart for hour-long talks before delivering a statement at the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry shortly after his arrival where Wang was extensive in his praise of relations between the two countries. He met President Sirisena last evening and will meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning before winding up his short visit.

President Maithripala Sirisena is expected to visit Beijing in 2017 to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations with China, his second visit since coming to power. The Chinese Prime Minister is also expected to visit Sri Lanka next year.

Wang’s visit comes as Sri Lanka comes in the middle of negotiating a fresh agreement for the $1.5 billion Port City project, setting up an investment zone in Hambantota exclusive for Chinese companies and considering a debt-equity swap by their Chinese counterparts.  Sri Lanka is also pushing for an FTA with China.

Sri Lanka has an extensive debt burden with China estimated to surpass $5billion, mostly of medium term loans that are due payment over the next few years. The bulk of the loans are for massive infrastructure projects, which the Government claims has put pressure on economic management.

“Our historical relationship is rooted in our deep connection and bond in strong political foundation, mutual interest and social support. No matter how the international situation or our domestic situation changes, our strategic partnership featuring everlasting friendship and sincere mutual assistance will continue to develop,” Wang said.

He also outlined plans for extensive engagement with Sri Lanka, refocusing on foreign direct investment and new ventures introduced by the Sirisena administration.

“We can help Sri Lanka develop itself as a shipping centre in the Indian Ocean and to accelerate the process of improving the capacity for independent development. China stands ready to work with Sri Lanka on the basis of mutual benefit and cooperation to promote international industrial capacity and focus on port, highway, railway, airport and other programs to create new cooperation models so that we can continue development and shared prosperity.”

China is the second largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka and the fastest growing market. Sri Lanka earned $1.1billion from the sector in the first quarter of 2016 but the industry could see a slump from Brexit. Wang pledged to encourage more arrivals to Sri Lanka.

“Tourism will be a brought spot and official cooperation will continue to attract more Chinese people visit your beautiful country for sightseeing holidays and shopping. Both sides stand ready to further work on the main blue ocean economy, maritime centre and cooperation on maritime security. The two sides also discussed international issues in a bid to maintain stability.”

In a clear effort to sooth possible tensions with India Wang insisted that relations between Sri Lanka and China would have no impact on a third party.

“Cooperation between China and Sri Lanka does not target any third country, nor will it affect our respective relations with other countries and we stand ready to work closely with other South Asian countries for the goal of achieving development.”

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera also corroborated talks on key infrastructure projects with his Chinese counterpart and said both sides would work towards the early signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“Discussions were also made of the belt and road initiative put forward by China. Sri Lanka reiterated its participation in this initiative as it is in line with the Government’s initiative to make Sri Lanka the hub of the Indian Ocean.  We discussed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route for greater economic cooperation, which is viewed as a road of friendship, economic cooperation and socio and high level connectivity.”

Samaraweera also said Sri Lanka would hold a “Sri Lanka festival” in Beijing next year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of relations between the two countries.

“We also agreed to further enhance cooperation in the field of trade, which we hope will be achieved with the early conclusion of the FTA between our two countries. Sri Lanka also welcomes the active support from Chinese enterprises towards the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.”

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BMICH offers exciting and dynamic environment for spectrum of events


An architectural jewel among Colombo’s celebrated landmarks, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) provides a unique setting for a wide spectrum of events.

Recognised as one of the largest, most versatile event venues in Colombo, its balance of tradition and modernity offers organizers  locations for a range of activities beyond conferences or exhibitions.

“We have a wide variety of 16 venues to choose from, spread across 42 acres, each to suit individual or organisational needs,” noted BMICH Manager Events & Reservations Mahesh Amarasinghe.

For many the BMICH is prominent as a reputed, “conference, convention and exhibition center hosting prestigious seminars, conferences, convocations and award ceremonies, and also musical concerts,” Amarasinghe noted.

However, unlike other Colombo venues, the BMICH’s unique identity, authenticity and special aura provide clients with innumerable flexible spaces to host a variety of other events too.

“We are trying to change the perception of people. We can host any event including weddings, kid’s birthday parties, breakfast meetings, even New Years Eve,” he added.

BMICH management understand the growing demands of visitors, organisers and exhibitors requiring state-of-the-art infrastructure and offers a compelling proposition as a venue. This includes the ability to “accommodate 1600 people at a time that no other venue can do, an Orchestra Pit with very sophisticated lighting, sound and acoustics, and advanced equipment for the simultaneous translation of 32 languages,” Amarasinghe noted.

The four-decade building remains distinct from the rest of Colombo’s landscape, but harmonious with the city’s urban and natural setting. Inside, the fully equipped modern venue offers organisers everything required to host any type of event – from international conventions to huge fashion shows, gala dinners, and even automobile exhibitions

“We can host a dinner from two people to two thousand people – two people in Committee Room F to 2000 in the main Exhibition Hall. Also in terms of parking we can accommodate two thousand five hundred vehicles. This is our unique selling point,” Amarasinghe added.

The evolution of services at the BMICH has been continuous and management have earmarked long term strategic plans. According to Amarasinghe, “We have a lot of outdoor spaces, the Kamatha for example, and now the land at the back we want to make it into a spice garden.”

Unknown to many the BMICH provides facilities on par with star class hotels. “BMICH has the ability to host even corporate and national day cocktails, associated functions, dinners, luncheons, breakfast meetings, everything that can be held in Hotels (including availability of bed rooms for event organisers if they wish to stay in the premises during the event) can be hosted here and the biggest advantage is the ample space available for parking which has become quite an issue at most other venues,” he said.

The BMICH is also ideal for hosting pre and post media briefings and press conferences, “That is something that we do and offer competitive packages for corporates and organisers including at concessionary rates if the main event is held here,” Amarasinghe noted.

Additionally, organisers can rely on the experience and professionalism of the in-house team including the catering partner responding to the highest standards, ensuring effective and competitive solutions in making any event, flawless and unforgettable.

With constant attention to detail making the venue even more suited to events of all types and sizes, “The BMICH can host events of greater dimension, it’s a premium location and we foresee an even more progressive future,” added Sunil Dissanayake Director/Chief Executive of the BMICH.

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SL targets 4.2 mn arrivals by 2020  

Minister Amarathunga addressing the event. Picture by Dushmantha Mayadunne

Tourism Hotel Investment and Investment Conference 2016 kiked started on February 10, 2016 and would continue till February 11 at the Galle Face hotel. Among the many aspects brought out in the conference, it was impressed upon that Sri Lanka with all it has to offer should try to bring in more brands into the country. Managing Director India and regional VP south Asia, Star wood Hotels and resorts stated that bringing in more branded hotels into the country will automatically increase the desirability of the country and create a suitable environment to reach an upper-end market.

It was mentioned in the presentations carried out throughout the conference that Sri Lanka hopes to reach a target 4.2 million tourist arrivals into the country by the year 2020 which would bring in around 200 new hotels and an addition of 11,000 rooms to the hotel industry. Minister of Tourism Development, John Amarathunga said that by the year 2020 the tourism sector will be employ over 640, 000. While the total contribution of travel tourism to the country’s GDP is forecasted to elevate itself by 6.1% to 10.5%of GDP by the year 2026.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Chairman MRICS, Manav Thadani said that although Sri Lanka is known as a leisure destination and around 86% of the tourists arriving at the country are leisure bound, it is Business travel which is around 13 % that shows a growing trend.

The conference represents a mix of fourteen countries out of the total of 170 participants.

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China’s J. J. Construction building five star hotel in Panadura

Sunil Silva with J. J. Le in Colombo

China’s J. J. Construction who manages White Heven Hotel Panadura has started to build a 200 room five star hotel in Panadura.

Founder Chairman, White Heven Hotel Panadura, Sunil Silva said that they will invest US$ 30 million for the project. “We have bought a three acre land in Pandaura and have already started construction last month,” he said.

He said that the hotel will be built in 8 months opened in August 2016.”

The proposed J. J. Hotel Panadura

Silva said that the J. J. Construction in China is an international construction company and they were also involved in the building of the China Beijing Olympic stadium. “Modern building techniques are begin used to build the hotel and this is the reason we are completing the project in less than eight months.”

“I met J. J. Lee in China and when the idea was proposed he had no second thought to invest in Sri Lanka, mainly due to the increase number of Chinese tourists visiting Colombo.”

He said that the hotel will consist of large conference facilities, a shopping mall, international spa, gym and many other modern facilities. The four storeyed J. J. Hotel has been contracted to Jetwing Group for the purpose of marketing and management.

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Tourism kicks of 2016 with record arrivals in January

  • China remains the rising star with arrivals more than doubling

Sri Lanka tourism has got off to a record start in 2016 with January arrivals notching up an all time high of 194,280.

The record figure for the month of January is a growth of 24.3% over 2015 arrivals of 156,246. In 2014 January arrivals amounted to 146,575 and in 2013 the figure was 110,543.

China is the rising star with arrivals more than doubling to 26,083 from 11,735 in January last year. Indian tourists remained number one with 28,895, up by 26%.

Western Europe continued its dominance as the biggest region at the start of 2016 with arrivals amounting to 63,690, up by 24%.  UK produced 16,253 tourists, up by 21% followed by Germany 12,760 up by 23%.

All markets in Western Europe except France produced double digit growth in January in comparison to a year earlier.

South Asia came in second with a growth of 20.7% to 40,501 followed by East Asia up 48% to 38,807.

Eastern Europe brought in 22,733 tourists, up by 11%  whilst arrivals from the Middle East saw 15% growth to 10,109.

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Sri Lanka among cleanest countries in Asia Pollution Index 2015

In the midst of an impending global air pollution crisis to which Asia is fast emerging as one of the main contributors, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the cleanest countries in the region in a global Mid-Year Pollution Index for 2015.

Ranking among the 12 cleanest countries in Asia, Sri Lanka comes far ahead of regional counterparts such as China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan and several other countries to rank 11th of 34 Asian countries. The Pollution Index estimates overall pollution, with the biggest weight given to air pollution.

The ranking by the world’s largest crowd-sourced global database Numbeo follows a similar achievement in 2014 when Sri Lanka ranked highest in South Asia on the Environmental Performance Index, an exhaustive and highly regarded annual global environmental impact assessment study by Yale Universita USA. Sri Lanka ranked far ahead of neighbours India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in the 2014 study and continues to stay ahead in 2015.

Global air pollution levels are reaching crisis levels with air pollution responsible for seven million deaths worldwide each year, making it the largest single global environmental health risk. Increasing levels of air pollution have been linked chiefly to an increase in vehicle emissions, fuelled by Asia’s booming economies and a rapidly increasing aspirational middle class for whom owning a vehicle is a high priority.

In this context, Sri Lanka’s positive ranking on global environmental indices is encouraging, signalling effective environmental management policies, chiefly stringent air pollution management. Notwithstanding a sharp increase in the vehicle population in recent years, with 6.5 million vehicles expected to be plying the roads by 2016, Sri Lanka has defied global trends in air pollution and shown no deterioration of ambient air quality. An achievement due, in large part to stringent VET programmes currently in place.

With vehicles being one of t he primary contributors to air pollution, ensuring advanced, reliable and accurate emission monitoring through clean vehicle and fuel technology is a vital factor in ensuring successful air pollution management. Comprehensive VET services play an invaluable role in controlling harmful emissions and preserving the environment, while valueadded services such as Fuel Efficiency Reports offer advice on maximizing fuel efficiency and extending engine lifespan.

Effective vehicle emission management is imperative in order to prevent a national health crisis in the presence of increasingly convincing data that links air pollution with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well the increasing incidence of cancer. Harmful substances released by exhaust gas such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide matter have also been linked to the destruction of local eco-systems, reduction in crop yields, global warming and climate change. Left unchecked, air pollution can leave a negative long-term environmental legacy, the effects of which will be near impossible to reverse.

Given the compelling link between vehicle emissions and air pollution, continued stringent air pollution management policies including vehicle emission testing by reputed VET providers are imperative if Sri Lanka is to continue to uphold its benchmark record for environmental responsibility.

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