Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Harin Fernando says that tourism industry is firmly on its recovery path and that the year 2023 will be a dream year for the country as it puts the past few months of unrest and uncertainty behind and welcomes hordes of tourists again.
Fernando has embarked on a visit to India, the first visit by Sri Lankan Tourism since the country was gripped by unrest over fuel and food shortages earlier this month and which eventually led to the ouster of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Addressing the media in New Delhi, the first stop on a multi-city tour of India that Fernando and his delegation has begun, Fernando says that in order to reposition itself strongly in the international tourism markets, Sri Lanka has big plans for participation in leading global tourism fairs like the World Travel Market, London, or the ITB in Berlin.
“We are trying to reach the peak tourist numbers that we had received in 2018 by 2023 and for that we have undertaken a number of steps already, like easing of visa rules accompanied by an aggressive international campaign to inform tourists and tourism stakeholders that Sri Lanka is resilient and is open for tourists again. I believe that the year 2023 will be a dream year for Sri Lanka Tourism,’’ Fernando told the media.
“The number one position is always between India and the United Kingdom. Then on third and fourth place are Germany and France and after this we have Spain and the Russian market, which is quite big. I am delighted to say that Aeroflot is flying back to Sri Lanka from October 9 and all their flights are full. I believe that this flow will continue since there are only a few countries that they can fly to currently due to the situation there,’’ Fernando said in response to a query by India Outbound.
The tourism minister goes on to list other measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to boost tourism traffic. “We have simplified the visa procedure for tourists. Earlier, we had a tourist visa for only 30-days, but now we issue visas for six months validity and we also offer a multiple entry visa for five years where on each visit the tourist can stay for 90 days,’’ Fernando added.
The minister is leading a high-level delegation to India and is accompanied by Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Thisum Jayasuriya, Chairman Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau, which interacted with the large number Indian travel trade stakeholders, corporates and media. Over 50-member strong team of Sri Lankan Tour Operators and Hoteliers also accompanied the delegation, to promote Sri Lanka Tourism’s return to normalcy and promote business partnerships. The delegation has been supported Sri Lankan flag carrier, SriLankan Airlines.
“I don’t have to say anything about today’s event. You can see it is a full house. It is a huge success. So New Delhi, thank you very much, India thank you so much. I love this country and I have been here so many times. Coming back from a Sri Lankan point of view what I have to say is it’s the same place you saw a year ago. It was a few months that we went thorough a struggle but now we are above it and now you have to come and experience it yourself and see the smiles of 22 million Sri Lankan people with their warm hearts,” Gajabahu tells India Outbound.
The focus of the roadshow in New Delhi was to promote various destination attractions of Sri Lanka, with focus on Ramayana Trails, Buddhism Culture, beaches, weddings & honeymoon and a thriving cosmopolitan culture for the discerning Indian outbound travellers.
This series of roadshows will continue to promote Sri Lanka in the key Western India region, with the Mumbai Roadshow to be held on September 28. The series will be conclude with the Hyderabad Roadshow on September 30, targeting the Southern Indian region.
The main purpose of hosting these roadshows is to promote Sri Lanka as an attractive tourism destination across India, as it is one of Sri Lanka’s key source markets and has been extremely supportive in Sri Lanka regaining lost momentum both post pandemic and the recent economic downturn. Sri Lanka is witnessing a considerable increase in tourist arrivals with India leading the way and securing the number one position.
The event also focuses on promoting a myriad of tourism experiences while focusing on converting potential travellers to make booking and highlight the positive message that Sri Lanka is open for leisure, business and MICE tourism. The target audience at these roadshows will be tour operators, media, key influencers, corporates and trade associations and key tourism industry stakeholders in India, who have the ability to take the message that Sri Lanka is not only one of the most beautiful countries but is also safe and secure; adhering to all the necessary health and safety guidelines.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau expects an impressive growth in the Indian outbound travellers to Sri Lanka post this event. Sri Lanka is a top-notch tourist destination and known as the Wonder of Asia for its long-preserved culture and heritage. Sri Lanka is the home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, is renowned in “Sigiriya Rock Fortress” the succession of ancient civilisations of the Island, showcasing in addition some other attraction that are interesting colonial legacy of the country. Witnessing the growth and potential from India, SLTPB has taken a step forward in consolidating their presence in the Indian market.