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Over 160,000 tourist arrivals in three months

Tourist arrivals for the first three months of this year recorded a 26 percent growth. "We have already achieved over 160,000 tourist arrivals from January to March this year.This is a positive growth and if this trend continues we could achieve the 600,000 target of tourist arrivals by the end of this year," Director Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB), Malraj B. Kiriella said.


The Sri Lanka Tourist Board recorded 500,000 tourist arrivals in 2003 and in 2004 it was over 566,000, a clear indication that the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is developing.

The SLTB recorded 500,000 tourist arrivals in 2003 and in 2004 it was over 566,000. This is a clear indication that the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is developing.

Therefore the 600,000 mark is not a difficult task as we have laid out our strategies clearly.

Kiriella said the SLTB has launched promotional and advertising campaigns locally and internationally to develop the tourism sector in Sri Lanka. The SLTB is focusing on generating and tapping potential markets in the region.

"We have to go beyond traditional markets such as UK, France and Germany and develop new markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, Australia and USA. Countries in ASEAN, China, India, South Korea and the Middle East have shown great interest in Sri Lanka as an attractive tourist destination," Kiriella said.

Our target is to develop the country to be one of the finest tourist destinations in the region. To achieve it we cannot be dormant. We have to move beyond the concept of 'beach tourism' and focus on our natural and cultural heritage.

Kiriella said Sri Lanka is blessed with diverse attractions of nature, culture and adventure. The SLTB has conducted trade fairs, roadshows, exhibitions, presentations, workshops and advertising campaigns to promote tourism in Sri Lanka.

Eco-tourism is a niche product in Sri Lanka. We have the assets for excellent eco-tourism in the country. Assets such as fauna and flora are in abundance. The Sinharaja Forest, an example for bio-diversity has been declared by UNESCO as a natural heritage, Kiriella said.

He said we have excellent hotels and eco lodges to meet the increasing need for eco tourism in the country. Eco tourism is an upmarket product. A good number of tourists is attracted to this aspect of tourism.

The Sri Lanka Travel Mart-Gateway to South Asia to be held from June 16 to 18 will help develop the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. The aim of the exhibition is to attract new buyers to visit Sri Lanka and establish connections with new operators.

Over 200 buyers and 150 exhibitors are expected to participate in the exhibition at the BMICH.

The lack of infrastructure facilities such as good roads and transportation are constraints to the development of tourism in Sri Lanka.

Policy-makers should implement an effective transportation system where the road and railway network is linked. This will reduce the time wasted in reaching one's destination, Kiriella said.


Air Arabia to fly to Istanbul

Air Arabia LLC, the first and only low-fares airline in the Middle East and North Africa will launch flights to Istanbul from May 28 with two flights a week every Thursday and Sunday.

Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, recently chosen as one of three European capitals of culture is considered a gateway between Europe and the East.

Air Arabia will fly twice weekly to Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul from May 28 every Thursday and Sunday departing Sharjah at 22:15 to arrive in Istanbul at 01:40 and then depart Istanbul every Friday and Monday at 02:20 to arrive in Sharjah at 07:30.

Air Arabia's Chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani said, "This is a momentous occasion for us as we announce flights to a new continent. As pioneers in aviation in the Middle East we are delighted to now take our customers to new horizons and will continue to expand our network to more destinations."

Air Arabia's Country Manager for Sri Lanka Mayank Dhingra, said "The addition of this new destination provides more opportunities for our customers looking for exotic holidays.

Passengers can even book their holidays online with Air Arabia at www.airarabia.com where we provide a great selection of hotels and tours to Turkey."


PATA Grand Award for Mount Lavinia Hotel

The PATA Grand Award for Education and Training was presented to the Mount Lavinia Hotel this year for its Youth Trainee Program. This is a timely recognition of Mount Lavinia Hotel's many works and projects aimed at changing the perceptions of a large segment of Sri Lankan society which once viewed tourism and tourism related employment in a negative light, and this recognition becomes unique as the Hotel celebrates 200 years of its original building this year.

Over the past decades Mount Lavinia Hotel has taken upon itself to train young men and women of the low to middle income families in the rural areas of the country.

As the leading travel award program for the travel industry in the Asia Pacific region the PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Grand Award represents the highest accolade for organisations which strive to promote the travel sector. This is a beneficial program for the tourism industry human resource development, particularly in a developing country where skills are lacking, the Chairman told the inauguration ceremony.

For the Mount Lavinia Hotel, the PATA Grand Award is yet another feather in its 200-year-old cap.


Emirates wins top honours

Following last year's success at the Business Traveller Middle East Awards, Emirates, the Dubai-based airline has scooped yet another cluster of prestigious accolades at this year's event, taking its total tally of international awards to over 300.

In a four-month survey conducted in the Middle East, business travellers again voted in favour of Emirates, bringing it back to winning position and enabling it to clinch top honours such as 'Best Airline Overall serving the Middle East', 'Airline with the Best Business Class', 'Best Regional Airline for the Middle East', 'Airline with the Best Cabin Staff', and 'Airline with the Best Frequent Flyer Program.

The Business Traveller Middle East Awards are the benchmark for excellence in the region's travel and hospitality industry. Held annually, the awards are determined by survey results with no outside sponsorship or influence, making it the most respected passenger survey of its kind in the region.

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