Sri Lankans are preparing to celebrate their first Christmas and New Year holiday season in nearly three decades, without the burden of fear from LTTE attacks following the end of the civil conflict in May this year.
Leisure and tourism industry officials are expecting a very successful winter season with strong occupancy rates in hotels in and out of Colombo.
Officials also said Sri Lankan expatriates from countries across the globe such as Canada and the United States were coming to the island in large numbers on their annual journey to visit family and friends but even more so now, to see a country free of conflict.
Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Dileep Mudadeniya said that generally, the feedback from the hotels has been very good. “Every place is full.” He said he fully expects growth in the numbers of tourists to continue through the winter season which typically stretches from mid-December on to March or even April.
“Sri Lankans will have a good time this year,” he said, adding that there is massive interest by tourists and Sri Lankan expatriates seeking to come here on holiday. “City hotels are going to be full with a mix of foreigners and Sri Lankan expatriates. We are getting a lot of inquiries on Facebook, Twitter and on our website.”
Mr. Mudadeniya said there are a lot of members on the Facebook and Twitter pages which continue to increase as well as a lot of blogs. “Lots of people are joining which is good for networking and marketing.” He added that there are also numerous inquiries on where to go and what to do in Sri Lanka including inquiries on how people can help in terms of promoting Sri Lanka abroad.
Rohan Karr, director and CEO at the Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo, said that this year the hotel's bookings during the months of December have increased. “It’s 10% more [than December 2008] as of now, and more Sri Lankan expatriates have booked rooms,” he said, adding that more people have attended corporate year-end events than in previous years. “There is a feel-good factor,” he said.
Flights into Colombo are also fully booked, according to the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines. The airline’s chief executive, Manoj Gunawardene, said that a “full” flight is one at 85% of capacity. Bookings are much higher than previous Decembers: “Many Sri Lankan expatriates are coming from the US, UK, Canada and also Italy, France and Germany [in addition to other Asian cities],” he said.