Sri Lankan Tourism and Lands Minister Harin Fernando invited India’s tourism and hospitality leaders to look at Sri Lanka as a destination for their investments since the country offers a unique opportunity at the moment when its economy as well as tourism sector rebounce from the crisis that had enveloped the country last year.
Fernando was addressing the Travel and Tourism Summit held in New Delhi on Thursday which was attended by over 150 influencers from the sector.
“Sri Lanka is a very receiving nation. Sri Lanka is a country that has a mix of things such as a place where youngsters would want to do adventures, relax on the beach, history, culture, wildlife and so much more. Sri Lanka is nominated as one of the best diving destinations in Singapore within a month, so Sri Lanka is going to be a land of opportunities at the moment,” said Fernando, who was the Chief Guest at the event.
“India is among the top tourism source markets for Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka have strong diplomatic and historical relations,’’ he added. Fernando said that tourism industry was poised to stage a smart recovery not just in Sri Lanka, but the entire Asian continent.
“South East Asian tourism industry is predicted to recover to 67 pc of 2019 levels in 2023, and is expected to reach 101 pc of 2019 levels in 2024, while North East Asia is expected to recover to 97 pc of 2019 levels in 2024. South Asia is expected to recover to 95 pc of 2019 levels in the same year. South Asia remains a popular destination of tourists from various regions, including South Asia itself,” he told the gathering.
Leaders of the Indian travel trade were also excited about the role of India’s ongoing G20 Presidency which they believed offered some unique opportunities to promote the country, and especially the often-ignored region of North East India. Jyoti Mayal, President of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), India’s oldest and largest travel industry association, welcomed the steps being taken by the country’s leadership in this regard.
“People in the North East are very hardworking and resilient, and yet that is a destination which people don’t know much about. So, we need to develop these destinations and we have a minister right now, G Kishan Reddy, who is also the Union Minister for DoNER. I think it is a very good initiative that even G20 meetings are now happening in Siliguri and Darjeeling where we are all a part of it, because tourism focuses there. And only when people travel does the infrastructure come up very beautifully,” Mayal told India Outbound.
Muktesh K Pardeshi, Special Secretary, G20 Operations was also present on the occasion and highlighted the government’s tourism vision, both inbound and outbound.
Among other issues discussed at the event included the need for augmenting capacity of flights, high fares and poor connectivity. The stakeholders said that the tourism industry in India is constrained by two bottlenecks, aviation and branded hotels.
“Right now the bottlenecks are many because we are running short on the capacity of flights, which we need more because the fares are very high and only when the capacity increases the demand will be balanced out and it will become more viable for everyone to travel. So that’s the first thing, but of course we also need more infrastructure, more last minute connectivity, which is going to play a very big role. Thirdly, private partnerships need to be developed much more, especially associations like ours because TAAI is the oldest and the largest body. So we need to have more partnerships to work out things, and it should be milestone driven,” said Mayal to India Outbound.
The tourism industry says it is ready to play its due role in promoting the country’s travel and tourism sector. Mayal lists various aspects where TAAI is already playing an important role in partnership with various government agencies. ”TAAI has always believed in a couple of things, like promoting new destinations a lot, because inbound, outbound, domestic-all have to be together. You can’t segregate one from the other, you have to be a part of the evolution of the industry which is happening. So we need to evolve in the correct format. And even the airlines, when they are coming into the country they need to carry people from here and bring people from there. That’s what tourism is really about. Those are the things we are working on with the government and the industry. I also believe very strongly about skilling and I’m also the Chairperson of the Board – Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council, so we do a lot of skilling right at the grassroots levels, which we are continuing. When I took over as the TAAI President, we started Women in TAAI and Tourism. We are going to be developing that more. As I speak we are gearing up for the first 20 women we are taking from the grassroot level for hospitality and we are starting with UP. Lucknow is the first place where we are starting. So there are a lot of things we are doing and we are giving people opportunities. We are also looking at opportunities, how we can enhance the business and of course, I am the face to fight all the battles, surely we will grow ahead with,” she tells India Outbound.