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Sunday, 19 May 2013

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Mattala airport to play crucial role:

2.5m high-spending tourists - Lanka's target for 2016

Sri Lanka hopes to attract 2.5 million high-spending tourists by 2016. Chairman, SriLankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickramasinghe said that with the opening of the second international airport, the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota, this number would increase by a further one million.


Chairman SriLankan Airlines Nishantha Wickramasinghe addresses a press conference at the Arabian Travel Mart

The national carrier is also promoting cruise ships to anchor at the Hambantota Port and convert the region in to a major cruise destination similar to Singapore.Most leading cruise liners in the world drop and pick up passengers in Singapore. Due to this, the Singapore airport gets at least an additional 30 percent more passenger movements.

This is the business model SriLankan Airlines wants to create for the Hambantota district. By doing so, tourists would use both the Hambantota Port and Airport to facilitate cruise travel, thus opening a new area of business.The East Coast, with the ending of 30 years of hostilities, has become a major tourist attraction and several five star hotels have come up to meet the demand.

Tourists have to spend nearly nine hours to reach the much sought after Eastern hotels, but with the opening of the MRIA, the East Coast is just a three-hour drive. Since most SriLankan Airlines flights touch down at MRIA and there are also regular flights to the Bandaranaike International Airport at Colombo, tourists now have the option of first exploring the Eastern Coast and the Deep South and their wildlife, visit the Cultural Triangle and fly back from Colombo.

Interior of the Mattala Airport
The Mattala Airport
A cruise liner in Singapore

Four years after the 30-year battle against terrorism ended, tourism has become one of Sri Lanka's biggest foreign exchange earners with average annual revenues of US$ 1 billion at present. The number of tourist arrivals last year was 1,005,605 while in January this year, 97,411 tourists visited the country. The island is expected to earn an annual income of three billion US dollars by 2016.

Indians dominate

Once again, Indian tourists dominated the arrivals list and in a bid to woo more Indian arrivals, a series of promotional campaigns are being launched.

Sri Lanka's tourism authorities launched a three-day mega promotional campaign titled 'Get Sri Lanken'ed' which kicked off in style in Mumbai on Friday followed by a high profile media conference at the Taj Lands End Hotel at Salcette, Mumbai.

The press conference was the first of a series of events lined up under the 'Get SriLankan'ed' promotional campaign of Sri Lanka Tourism, which was launched with the aim of positioning Sri Lanka as a most sought after travel destination in emerging markets of the world. In 2010, Sri Lanka was ranked at the first position in the '31 Places to go in 2010' list published by The New York Times

The campaign 'Get Sri Lanken'ed' was initiated on President Mahinda Rajapaksa's advice in keeping with the Mahinda Chinthana. The objective of developing a sustainable Sri Lankan tourism industry inspired this campaign, organised jointly by the public and private sectors.

During the press conference held in this connection, over 120 high profile publications and broadcasters representing the Indian media were briefed on the promotional campaign's objectives and the nature of events scheduled. The events which began on Friday will continue till tomorrow. The event gained colour with the traditional Sri Lankan dance performances of the Western Province Dance Group which captured everyone's attention.

Asian nations

Addressing the gathering, Economic Development Deputy Minister Muthu Sivalingam noted that India and Sri Lanka have many similarities as Asian nations and the long-standing relationship they have as close neighbours creates immense opportunities for both countries to share common interests and values and develop socio-economic ties with each other.

Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Bhashwara Gunarathna explained the rationale behind launching the 'Get Sri Lanken'ed' campaign in India and how Sri Lanka Tourism plans to achieve a maximum influx of Indian tourists to the island.

He said Sri Lanka's target is to attract 400,000 Indian tourists by 2016, thus helping to reach the goal of 2.5 million arrivals by 2016. Gunaratna also thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa for the continuous guidance provided to carry out promotional campaigns of this nature to develop the travel and tourism industry of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Tourism also organised another successful event in Dubai earlier when they participated in the annual Arabian Travel Market with a record participation from the private sector. The Sri Lankan stand depicting wildlife was one of the most photographed stalls. These promotions would also help increase arrivals from the Gulf region this year.

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