The Government is in a flurry to prop up convention centres around the island in a bid to make Sri Lanka the next best venue to lure the MICE travellers. Sri Lanka is currently a popular destination for corporate events with over 250 such events hosted in Colombo for Indian companies.
MICE travellers generate total revenue of US$50 million with approximately 80,000 arrivals in 2010 while targeted arrivals for this year are 85,000.
At present 12% of total tourists visiting the country are MICE travellers, according to Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) General Manager Vipula Wanigasekara.
With the target market, being event planners, institutions and professional bodies the industry is aiming at luring more such tourists that represent the upmarket and spend about 3-4 times above the average holidaymakers.
The government is currently making the final additions to its Hambantota Convention Centre that is expected to be in operation by early 2012. This Korean funded project will be completed by August this year.
He told the Business Times that the government together with the SLCB has established a committee to set up a multi purpose convertible complex worth approximately Rs.1 billion to be most likely set up in Peliyagoda on 200 acres of land.
The committee comprises representatives from the People’s Bank, Moratuwa University, BMICH, Urban Development Authority (UDA) and Treasury.
The multi-purpose convention centre is scheduled to be established within the next two years, which will be carried out as a public private partnership project.
Next week all components will be finalized with the Moratuwa University expected to have the architectural designs in place.
The project proposal was to be submitted on Wednesday to the Treasury with plans to involve a multi-purpose shopping complex in addition to a cinema hall that would become the meeting place even for locals similar to Santosa Island of Singapore and modeled accordance with the Hyderabad Convention Centre.
It is expected to host upto 1000 stalls of 9 sq. metres that would eventually become five times the size of the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC) with the rest of the land area likely to create space for a parking area and hotel with a 200 room capacity.
Meanwhile, plans are underway for the construction of a similar conference and exhibition hall in Araly, 10 km from Jaffna city.
However, in this case the government is working out the land area identified for which a survey is being carried out and approval is awaited for from the Government Agent that has to obtain the necessary go ahead for the project from the Divisional Secretariat.
The 100 acres of land in this location is ideally suited for this kind of operation, Mr. Wanigasekara said.
He noted that projects of this nature usually take time and there were no issues concerning the Jaffna project. Currently the government is awaiting the Survey Report from the GA.
In addition in Negombo the private sector is engaged in setting up a new convention centre in a bid to attract more MICE travellers.
In the wake of these developments the country has moved into establishing the Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conferences Exhibition and Event Organisers.
This organization will be involved with the host institutions in Colombo in handling the bidding process to the closing of accounts. According to Lanka Exhibition and Conference Services Director Imran Hassan this will create a more professional outlook to the organizing of an event in the country. He noted that while there was limited space available in the country at present there was a need to increase the capacity of such exhibition and convention halls.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Acting Managing Director Malraj Kiriella speaking at a media briefing this week on tourism-related issues observed that tourism has seen a positive growth.
Government plans are to increase the tourist per capita from US$80 to US$130 in 2016.
“This should be pushed up by creating more opportunities for tourists to spend more,” he said.
SLTPB Chairman Nalaka Godahewa observed that currently there has been a growth of 30% and this is likely to continue. He noted that Sri Lanka must not be a Cambodia or Malaysia.
On the other hand, he spoke of the government’s future targets of 2.5 million arrivals in five years that could eventually become a reality and noted within a space of about four years the country would be geared to have the required infrastructure in place to attract increased MICE tourists.