A sleeping beauty and the Dubai of Asia – that’s what they call Sri Lanka today citing the numerous sights and sounds it has to offer the discerning traveller but potential for growth has been envisaged as above what the country achieves today. The Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC) that kicked off in [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka to spin around in 5 years


A sleeping beauty and the Dubai of Asia – that’s what they call Sri Lanka today citing the numerous sights and sounds it has to offer the discerning traveller but potential for growth has been envisaged as above what the country achieves today.

The Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC) that kicked off in Colombo on Monday opened with the Tourism Minister John Amaratunga projecting the country’s target of being Years of Investment and Years of Prosperity for tourism from 2017-19.

The government has plans to identify these years as those for tourism investment, he said addressing the morning

Asia has today become the largest tourist paradise and Sri Lanka is aiming at attracting 5 million tourists by 2020 with 300,000 additional rooms and investment worth over US$10 million.

World Travel and Tourism Council Chairman Gerald Lawless noted that globally tourism was 9.8 per cent of GDP and comprised 6 per cent of global exports and that its investment base was around $800 billion.

The industry has been able to attract over 280 million jobs worldwide and the industry was growing at a rate of 3.5 per cent in 2016 according to forecasts.

Tourism has contributed to 11 per cent of the growth of the Sri Lankan economy, he explained adding that this sector has generated about 800,000 jobs and was attracting 2 million visitors to the island nation.

China today has become the largest source markets for tourist travel with over 100 million outbound travelers touring the globe annually, Mr. Lawless said.

He highlighted the importance of spending on training local talent required to man the new hotels opening in the country including the development focus on infrastructure.

Mr. Lawless noted that Sri Lanka is being marketed as a high value destination but he pointed out that in the use of modern electronic travel under the electronic visa system he queried whether the charge of $35 per person was not too high compared to other destinations in the region.

Commenting on the global threat to security of travelers in the wake of the recent terror attacks, he pointed out that governments, security and the tourism industry need to work together to ensure that they would be able to ensure safe travel to visitors.

As Head of Dubai Holding, Mr. Lawless believes Sri Lanka could turnaround within five years which is sufficient time “to see things come in.”

Being seen at all the conferences and travel fairs is considered important to branding Sri Lanka and get people talking about the country, he said.

He noted that Sri Lanka could become the Dubai of Asia with good policymakers in place and a President that understands the industry.

And with an educated workforce, it is believed that Sri Lanka could use its potential as a unique selling point, he explained.

“Sri Lanka was a sleeping beauty,” the Movenpick Hotels and Resorts Middle East and South Asia Chief Operating Officer Andreas Mattmuller said adding that they spotted the opportunity on the island once the conflict stopped and believed they have a market here.

Movenpick will be opening its first hotel in Sri Lanka next January and would be among 73 of its global network and is engaged in working in an eco friendly environment and enabling differently abled persons gain employment within their hotels.

State hotels under one  body, says Ravi K

State plans are underway to consolidate all state-owned hotels to be brought under one body including the armed forces run-establishments.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake addressing the delegates at the Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC) held in Colombo this week said that the government is here to regulate not run hotels.

He pointed out that in this respect the government is looking at consolidating all state-owned rest houses, circuit bungalows and armed forces-run hotels under one body coming under the government.

Sri Lanka is trying to bring in reforms to ensure Colombo could become a duty free zone in the region, the minister said highlighting the future attractiveness of the city.

Board of Investment (BOI) Chairman Upul Jayasuriya noted that Sri Lanka has allowed investors to open up for job opportunities and economic opportunities in the country.

“We give them the opportunity to bring in the labour from outside if they can’t find from within,” he said.

However, he noted that the industries also should be able to offer more to their workers as Sri Lankan labour is considered cheap in the region Mr. Jayasuriya queried why these investors could not offer US$10 more.

The BOI chairman pointed out that another project pursued by the government was the development of the Delft islands and the Beira lake redevelopment in addition to township planning.

Further the government is offering capital allowances of upto 75 per cent to investors and they were encouraged to shift their regional headquarters to Sri Lanka, he said adding that the BOI was tasked with giving approvals within 14 days and if all documents were provided there would not be any obstacle at our end, the chairman explained.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Paddy Withana said that the private sector would run business as Sri Lanka encourages hotel chains to work on their properties.

Under the new plan the government has identified 45 tourism zones mostly located along the coastal belt and based on demand, he explained adding that this zoning would ensure that travelers would visit a number of places during their holiday in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Managing Director Sutheash Balasubramaniam said the government was in the process of setting up the Vision 2020 to position Sri Lanka on the global map.

In this respect he pointed out that the government has plans to launch a promotional campaign globally in 22 markets and was aiming at increasing room capacity by 40 per cent which is currently at around 20,000 and offering new experiences.

In addition, Colombo city would be envisioned to become a “dazzling city” with a host of activities on offer for the discerning traveler. (SD) 

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