'Focus on regional markets for international parleys'
Sri Lanka has to attract conferences from regional markets while
focusing on international conferences.
Picture by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe
Managing Director, Aitken Spence Travels Ltd Gehan Perera said: "We
have a lot of potential to hold conferences as the conference cost is
minimal in our country compared to other countries in the region.
India is a potential market and if we tap the market properly, we
don't need to tap any other market. This is a part of Meetings,
Incentives, conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism where we have a
lot of potential to promote our country.
The Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau (SLCB) is carrying out promotions to
tap the Indian and Pakistan market at present and we are confident that
we can get a larger share of that market as we are geographically close
to these two countries.
He said that on most occasions the present conference delegates
become leisure and holiday makers in the future.
Therefore, there are many spill over benefits such as repeat holiday
visits and additional support services that come along with conferences.
At present the MICE contribution is around 12% of the total arrivals.
The Aitken Spence Conventions and Exhibitions started 20 years ago.
Earlier, the Travel arm handled conventions but then we understood that
it was not feasible. Therefore we handpicked a few people and
established the company.
We sent them for training to the International Association of
Professional Conference Organisers (IAPCO) in Switzerland.
Around the same time four companies including us established
convention companies but two companies moved out of the business while
we stayed on. He said that having specialised staff who underwent
residential training at the IAPCO was a key selling point. In addition
we market in a professional way.
We tied up with Tui Event Management in 2004. It is a specialised
brand. Now we are on an international footing which gives us an edge
over other companies. Most importantly Tui is the largest tourism
company in the world.
He said that they have about 10 persons full time at the Ace Travels
and Conventions while the Inbound division also supports us when we
handle a Convention.
We organise four events every year in addition to the conferences so
that the staff are occupied the whole year through.
The company works very closely with the Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau
to attract new conventions. The Bureau is very dynamic and are very
helpful and are doing their very best to attract new conference
businesses to the country.
He said they need government support and if they project the country
in a national perspective every person will benefit in the long run.
Speaking of promotions, he said, that they get involved with SLCB
activities, Tui event management and their own research as well.
Director, Aitken Spence Conventions and Exhibitions Dharni Soza said
that a major drawback in promoting international conferences is that Sri
Lanka is not an international airline hub. Delegates travelling from
Europe think twice before coming to Sri Lanka for a conference.
Therefore, we should concentrate on the Local and the Asian Market
initially while not losing focus on the international market.
He said there is also much potential in the local market as Sri
Lankan companies are moving into joint ventures with overseas companies.