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Sunday, 16 March 2014





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‘Purpose-built venue vital to boost MICE tourism’

The contribution of MICE (Meeting Incentives, Conference and Exhibition) tourism sector to the economy has doubled with the improvement in infrastructure and the promotion of destination for events, said Lanka Exhibitions and Conference Services Ltd, Chairman Arjun Dharmadasa.

He said that the industry cannot sustain the growth momentum due to the absence of a purpose-built venue for exhibitions which is essential to attract more exhibitors and visitors to the country. Lack of space for large international exhibitions is a major obstacle to spur growth in the MICE tourism sector which has immense potential to develop into a vibrant tourism industry.

The MICE sector accounts for around 30-40 of the revenue of the tourism industry. The revenue from the sector will be higher this year with a series of events lined up. The beautification of city roads and the increase in hotel rooms and facilities for conferences will stimulate growth of the MICE sector.

“The space crunch for mega exhibitions is a stumbling block to develop the MICE sector. The BMICH, the venue for conferences could accommodate only around 1,400 delegates and there isn't adequate space for large-scale exhibitions. A 500,000 sq ft area could house around 1,000 booths which will help attract a larger number of exhibitors and visitors,” Dharmadasa said.

He said that LECS has called upon the authorities to set up a purpose-built venue for exhibitions either in Colombo or in the regions. Hambantota and Kandy are suitable locations for conferences.

The MICE sector has reached saturation with venues having capacity to host 250 stalls. A purpose-built exhibition centre will help attract more visitors and achieve the 2.5 million visitor target set for 2016.

Sri Lanka's capacity to host international exhibitions is low compared to many countries in the region which could host over 30,000 visitors a month.

He also said MICE sector tourists prefer venues away from the city which offer a wide range of experiences such as nature, clean beaches and safaris. There is a growing trend in the preference for venues in the regions which has diverse exposure.

The crocodile conference was held in Negombo last year. Facilities at hotels for conferences and meetings have been increased to attract more visitors. The North and the East are preferred destinations as tourists are keen to explore the regions which were barred for travellers for several years.

However, the demand for many locations will decline within the next three to four years with more agents and showrooms promoting products and services.

We need to promote the venue for international events with more capacity for exhibitions.

The Convention Centre is a good location but limited parking facilities is a drawback to promote the venue. The port city will be a shot in the arm for MICE tourism with cruise liners bringing tourists for events. MICE tourism comprises workshops, seminars, brainstorming and training sessions, leisure and motivational trips and exhibitions.

The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau which acts as a catalyst for the MICE sector has launched a five-pronged program such as creating an environment for tourism, attracting new markets, ensuring that departing tourists are happy, improving domestic tourism and creating a positive image of the country.

The Convention Bureau is bidding for the Asian Youth Games to be hosted in Sri Lanka in 2017 and the Hydro Asia Conference and exhibition this year.

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