With tourism being one of the key sectors of its economy, Sri Lanka is pulling out all stops to ensure that various segments of the industry not only recover to the pre-pandemic numbers but go beyond. With this objective, Sri Lanka has announced its first-ever physical MICE Expo that will be held in the capital Colombo from March 13-15.At a packed press conference held in Hilton, Colombo, last evening, Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Harin Fernando announced the Expo and expressed hopes that it would go a long way in helping Sri Lanka not just emerge from the current fiscal crisis but also position itself for the long-term as the country of preference for the global MICE industry for all their requirements, be it meetings, incentive travels, conferences and exhibitions/business events.
“With the expected footfall and diverse crowd anticipated at the event, this will be a huge opportunity for local service providers to gain global exposure and attract new customers,’’ Fernando said.
Organised by Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, in partnership with SriLankan Airlines and in collaboration with Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition & Event Organisers, the Sri Lanka MICE Expo 2023 will be held from March 13 to 15, at Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. It is expected to draw in hundreds of participants from Sri Lanka and many countries, notably India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, besides some European markets.
Sri Lanka Convention Bureau itself will host over 100 buyers from across these countries, of which over half are expected to be from India, its closest and largest market.
Fernando said that the preparations for the Expo had taken place within six months and that too under specially challenging circumstances as most countries had written off Sri Lanka, global airlines had stopped flying into the country and tourism was being written off. ‘‘Yet, against all odds, this team has managed to put together an impressive event which is being held for the first time ever in this country,’’ Fernando said, referring to SLCB and its partner organisations.
‘‘The way things are going currently, I will not be surprised if we exceeded the MICE business of 2019 in the next year itself. We have some impressive numbers already to show. We have a large group of 550-600 guests from Tata Steel coming in first week of February and another of about 750 from Lupin Labs in March,’’ Thisum Jayasuriya, Chairman of SLCB, told India Outbound.
The MICE operators and other service providers are extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about the prospects of MICE industry in the country. SLAPCEO, the industry association, that brings together all key stakeholders in the MICE industry in Sri Lanka, has been working for the past many months for the revival of the market and their focus clearly has been India.
‘‘In the short-term and in the long-term, India is our primary market. It has always been the first to respond and first to send tourists back to our country. We are seeing a heavy footfall of MICE groups from February itself as there are many groups that are lined up to come in, from various parts of India, notably south India. And with the currency exchange rates currently in place, Sri Lanka offers extremely high value for money for Indian travellers,’’ Imran Hassan, President of SLAPCEO told India Outbound.