After much speculation and carefully revised health protocols, Sri Lanka Tourism is taking progressive measures to rejuvenate the Tourism sector amidst the current pandemic situation. As an effort to boost tourist arrivals from India, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, along with the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai, organized a virtual awareness session on opening Sri Lanka for Indian travellers. The online session was joined by more than 280 prominent Indian outbound tour operators / travel agents and journalists from reputed newspapers, Sri Lankan Airlines, and representatives of key tourism associations of Sri Lanka also participated in the Webinar.
Dr. Valsan Vethody, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai made the opening remarks. He highlighted that the Tourism Industry in Sri Lanka is beginning to see an opportunity to get back on its feet and revive itself due to the accelerated e vaccination program. He further mentioned that the Indian government has considered opening Sri Lanka to the Indian travelers as a positive step and invited all the stakeholders in India to join this endeavor. Representing the Sri Lankan participants, Ms. Madubhani Perera, Acting Managing Director/ Director PR of SLTPB, Mr. Dushan Wickramasuriya, Director Marketing of SLTPB, Mr. Sanath Ukwatte, President of Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), Mr. Nishad Wijetunga, Vice President of Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), and Mr. Mervyn Fernanodupulle Past President of Association of Small & Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET) also contributed with their respective speeches. The Indian Agents were updated on crucial points such as Airline connectivity, adhering to health guidelines, traveling within the Bio Bubble and arranging accommodation at safe & secure hotels in Sri Lanka.
Ms. Madubhani Perera expressed that India is a very important source market for Sri Lanka. She mentioned that Sri Lanka Tourism has a target of achieving USD 10 billion income to the country, and a total of 7 million tourist arrivals by the year 2025, which is a challenging task due to the current pandemic situation impacting global tourism. Sri Lanka Tourism is taking all the necessary steps to achieve this target by 2025 or even to a closer level, with the planned promotional activities including the Global Campaign which is expected to be launched early next year.
Mr. Dushan Wickramasuriya, Director Marketing also made a comprehensive presentation to the audience by highlighting the importance of the tourism industry to Sri Lanka which has contributed 4% to 5% to our GDP. The highest number of tourist arrivals were recorded in 2018 which was 2.3 million, of which 18% was from India. He also touched upon the importance of niche segments such as Wedding Tourism, Film Tourism, Sports Tourism and Ramayana Trail, where there are many tourist attractions to be explored by Indian visitors. He further briefed on the health protocols introduced by the Health Authorities for the Indian tourists arriving in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Sanath Ukwatte, President / THASL explained about the preparedness of Sri Lankan hotel industry to cater to the needs of international travellers in the current environment. He stressed the importance of attracting Indian Tourists to Sri Lanka during this period in order to revive the Tourism industry.
Mr. Nishard Wijetunga, Vice President / SLAITO highlighted that movement of international tourists arranged by local DMCs is not restricted and further explained the protocols followed to ensure a smooth operation by DMCs to ensure a good holiday for all travellers.
Mr. Mervyn Fernandopulle, Past President / ASMET also conveyed that all the stakeholders of Sri Lanka tourism and the Sri Lanka mission is working tirelessly to revive the industry that has been hit by the Covid pandemic.
Mr. Jay Bhatia, Vice President of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) expressed that they are willing to promote Sri Lanka further and requested to organize fam tours to Sri Lanka to raise the interest among the tour operators. Furthermore, he is of the view that Sri Lanka tourism strategy should focus more on tourists who have already been to Sri Lanka rather than trying to acquire new tourists considering the uncertainty of the present times.
Mr. Ajay Prakash, President of Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), sharing the same views, requested to promote non-traditional aspects of Sri Lanka tourism such as culture, architecture, adventure tourism, etc.
The occasion concluded with an active and well participated Q & A session where the Indian Tour Operators had many queries regarding the connectivity, travel details related to Sri Lanka, and the ‘’Buy one Get one free’’ promotion. Mr. Ruwan Wijekoon, Manager Sri Lankan Airlines for the Western Region of India explained the promotions initiated by Sri Lankan airlines to attract Indian Tourists to Sri Lanka. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Shirani Herath of SLTPB and the session was moderated by Sandun Sameera of the Consulate general of Sri Lanka in Mumbai.