Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 3 April 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Accolades from UNWTO Secretary General:

Sri Lanka's tourism poised for take off

Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa

Tourists visiting Lankathilaka ruins in Polonnaruwa
Pic: Shirajiv Sirimane

Unawatuna of the top ten beachers in the world

The Hambantota Cultural Centre built by the Koreans.

The Colombo Cultural Centre built by the Chinese.

Sri Lanka has received many accolades from superstar celebrities, politicians, international sports legends and other personalities.

They have praised the Lankan hospitality, the beaches, nature culture, adventure and the diverse attractions that this country has to offer. International magazines have recommended Sri Lanka as one of the top ten places in the world for a perfect holiday. The list, goes on and on...

On top of all these accolades, Secretary General, United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, who was in Sri Lanka last week described the island as the emerging country in Asia's tourism sector.

Speaking at the 23rd Annual UNWTO Conference of South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, hosted in Colombo last week, he said that Sri Lanka's target of achieving 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016, set by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, can be achieved. Coming from a personal such as the Secretary General of the UNWTO, this truly is a comment Sri Lankans can be proud about. The World Tourism Organization has 400 affiliated members in 154 countries.

While pledging the support of the UNWTO for Sri Lanka's endeavours, he also praised the efforts taken by the Ministry of Tourism and said that they would drive Sri Lanka even closer to this target.

Rifai also met Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa and Ministry Secretary, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara and discussed matters of interest. General Manager, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Development Vipula Wanigasekera said that none of these would have been possible if Sri Lanka was fighting a separatist battle.

"If there was terrorism in the country, Sri Lanka could not have even dreamt of hosting an event such as the UNWTO conference or the World Cup", he said.

The publicity these events brought to Sri Lanka as a destination would help promote tourism in a bigger way.

Wanigasekera said that Sri Lanka would once again be in the global map when it hosts the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Conference next year to be attended by over 1,000 delegates.

One of the most talked about events Sri Lanka hosted when the country's infrastructure was still undeveloped was the Non-Aligned Summit at the BMICH in 1976.

For nearly four decades, the BMICH was the only conference facility Sri Lanka could boast of.

However, in the last two years, conference facilities and sports venues in Sri Lank took a major leap forward, not only in Colombo, but in the outstations as well with new venues being built.

The first project is the Homagama sports complex which would facilitate rugby, soccer and athletics. The complex will comprise a swimming pool, a rifle shooting range and a gymnasium with two pavilions.

The second project is the Hambantota international conference facility.

Located in Siribopura, Hambantota, the project started in 2006 with Korean aid with the objective of "promoting balanced and comprehensive regional development".

It has direct access to the southern expressway and the rail link between the capital Colombo and the other regions. In addition to these, Hambantota would also have an international airport, tele cinema village, international port and the Suriyawewa cricket stadium. Built for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, the Suriyawewa International Cricket Stadium is the biggest cricket stadium in Sri Lanka

Many facilities

Wanigasekera said that for the first time in the history of the country, Sri Lanka is now able to host international conferences and major events outside the capital in Hambantota. "This is a major marketing tool for MICE tourism as we now have a second capital to market MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions)."

The private sector too has played a major role in the development of Hambantota with the hotel sector intensifying investments in the area. Peacock Beach Hotel was refurbished and Tissa Hotel, owned and operated by Galle Face Hotel, was completely redone; from next week it would be marketed as a star class property.

He said the revenue they gained from MICE tourism last year was in excess of USD 55 million; they accounted for over 88,000 guests. This was USD 43 million as revenue and 75,000 arrivals in 2009.

He said that MICE tourists are high spenders and as they are decision makers in their countries, what they say about another country goes a long way. "The biggest advantage is that they come back to holiday destinations with their families and stay for a longer period as high spenders."

There is also new cricket stadium in Kandy and a new cultural centre in Colombo which would woo more MICE to Sri Lanka.

For the first time, plans are also under way to build Sri Lanka's first multi-functional convention centre in Peliyagoda. This is expected to offer multi-purpose conference facilities, from hosting of weddings to huge outdoor and indoor exhibitions and conferences.

Heavy investment

Meanwhile, Dilip Mudadeniya from Sri Lanka Tourism said investments for tourism are picking up as the Government is providing the right infrastructure. He said that Sri Lanka has the right investment climate and is an emerging tourist market.

"If these are not facts, a top hotel chain such as Shangri-La would never even dream of investing in Sri Lanka."

Mudadeniya, now handling investments, said that several other countries along with Sri Lankans are investing heavily on the travel sector, not only in Colombo, but in outstation areas as well.

The John Keells Group is building a hotel in place of Beach Hotel Beyroo in Beruwela while the company which had plans of disposing the Hikkaduwa property has now reinvested in the hotel. Another area that has seen new properties and developments is Trincomalee while Jaffna too is now offering star class accommodation.

Kuchaweli and Pasikudah which have been identified as tourism zones too have already attracted investors.

The Connaissance Group has invested on a 50-room upmarket hotel in Kuchaweli while several foreign investors have shown an interest in development in this area.

Undoubtedly one of the most talked about and Sri Lanka's biggest tourism development projects is the Kalpitiya integrated tourism zone. Infrastructure is falling in to place here and Dutch Bay Resorts has already started projects. Companies from India, Switzerland and Maldives too have shown a keen interest in this project which would be for high spenders.

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said that two islets have already been leased out to foreign investors on 30- year leases for Rs.18 million for the first five years.

With the success of the project, the Government has called for bids to lease out 10 more islets.

When completed, the Kalpitiya integrated tourism zone would have over 15 hotels with a total room capacity of 5,000.

It would also have floating restaurants, cable cars, golf courses, underwater activities and many other forms of entertainment.

It is expected to generate 15,000 direct and 30,000 indirect employment opportunities.

The Palali Airport too would be upgraded.

The development of the new sea plane landing port at Ja-Ela and the Colombo airport would also add value to Sri Lanka as a destination and the travel sector is looking at better times. They thank the Government for keeping its promise and ending the conflict, heralding a golden era in tourism in time to come.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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