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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Home Works Group to launch eco-friendly Gedara Kataragama

Home Works Group of Companies, involved in construction, security and turnkey projects has diversified into the leisure industry and hopes to invest over Rs. 200 million on three projects.

The company has also formed Home Works Leisure Pvt Ltd.

Chairman/Managing Director Dr. Gladwin Anthony Denzil Ludewyke said that their first hotel project would be Gedara Kataragama, an eco-friendly hotel targeting the corporate sector. Gedara Katargama includes eight chalets with all luxuries and five-star star amenities including an open kitchen, modern swimming pool with a jacuzzi and water fountain, tree house, boat deck and many other facilities and features.

“This project now in final stage, was designed, engineered and built by Home Works Pvt Ltd under my purview and will be the lead for new concepts and designs in the architectural field in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“Our main target is will be pilgrims visiting the Katargama Devalaya and Kiriwehera and guests would be able to take a complete villa or even the entire hotel. We have marketed this hotel to leading companies and they have already made bookings in advance.”

He said he will also introduce a spa and several transport options for both safaris to Yala and to visit Kiriwehera and other religious places in Kataragama.

He said his next project would be Gedara Akurala where he will build a 10-room luxury hotel complex targeting upmarket clients. He said that all these projects are built by his construction company, thus saving time and money and also ensuring a high quality finished project. He is also the Director Foreign Affairs of the Human Rights Organization of Sri Lanka and has been presented by the honorary title ‘Kirthi Sri SriLankabimani Janaranjana Deshabandu Viyapara Vibooshana’.

He was nominated as JP (all Island). He also holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management and was also presented by an Honorary Doctorate by Brampton International University for his outstanding achievements. He was honored by the award-winning artist and Guinness World record holder S.P. Balasubramayam for the coordination done during the latter’s 50-year World Tour Concert which was held on November 12, 2016, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

He works as an Advisor and Consultant for the Iraqi Embassy in Colombo and is also a business conceptualist and food and beverages consultant.

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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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Sri Lanka Tourism says dengue successfully under control


The dengue epidemic that has become a concern in Sri Lanka for the past few months is successfully brought under control by the measures taken by the relevant government authorities and collective effort of the general public alike, Sri Lanka Tourism confirms. Reported cases have dropped by 35-40% since mid July according to the sources of Ministry of Health. Regular campaigns were implemented to educate, clean up areas and other preventive measures have been taking place to control the spreading of the disease under guidance and surveillance of the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka. Untitled-1

Health authorities are on alert and have issued precautions for the prevention of the disease. Therefore, there is no need to be alarmed or distressed over the situation. Most cases have been reported from the Western Province, which has higher population density of the country. The tourist hot spots and hotels in the suburban areas are not affected. Actions have been taken by the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine under the guidance of the Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senarathne to improve the preventive and curative healthcare facilities to combat the current situation and strengthen preventative services.

Necessary steps have been taken to strengthen the Dengue Entomological and Disease surveillance systems in collaboration with the Epidemiology Unit and National Dengue Control Unit. Actions have been taken to provide all necessary drugs needed for Dengue patient management. Training of staff on clinical management and monitoring of Dengue patients, creating constant public awareness are some of the safety actions taken from the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine regarding the matter.

Though the Western Province area was affected with the disease, it is under control now with the efforts of creating Dengue Eradication and awareness programs, and Colombo is now being cleared of garbage and the cleaning of drainage systems are also taking place. In Western Province, surveillances systems and disposal system have been implemented. Well-organised   counter-productive measures are underway to create awareness amongst community living in the suburbs of Western Province of the causes of spread of dengue epidemic. (These are interior parts of the province which are outside tourist circuits) This has helped in educating and engaging the households and community (who are mostly affected) in the low income segment which includes keeping surroundings clean at all times – the prime cause of the spread of the disease.

The effects of recent floods which contributed to the spread of epidemic are being effectively attended to, led by the state authorities (with the required high level intervention) in a sustainable manner to prevent recurrence of pollution through effective garbage disposal.

The number of dengue cases has decreased sharply by 40% since mid-July due to planned and systematic efforts by the respective state authorities in the recent weeks.

Impact of dengue in other parts of the country (other than Western Province) have been minimal and continue to be under complete control and surveillance.

Tourists are seen to be freely moving around the country including in the city of Colombo.

Sri Lanka Tourism Authority is of the opinion that aggressive actions taken by the Health Ministry and the local authorities in affected areas to arrest the situation have yielded results. Sri Lanka Tourism will continue to update the progress and is confident that there is no cause for alarm.

Sri Lanka Tourism urges travellers to resort to correct sources of information to find out the latest updates on the disease such as Ministry of Health website and all Sri Lanka Missions abroad.

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Keeping The Wilpattu Natinal Park Open for Tourists


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