Nine VIP's based in Singapore were on holiday in
Sri Lanka last week.
A Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB)
spokesperson said that the VIPs arrived in Sri Lanka to be
pleasantly surprised by the country's rich cultural diversity
and went back promising to come again.
The nine-member group included the US Ambassador
Patricia Herbold, Russian Ambassador Andrey Rozhakov, Ambassador
for Peru, Jose Arturo Montoya Stuva and head of BT Global
Services Kristin Paulson. Their visit was facilitated by SLTPB,
and organized by Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Singapore,
The visit by the diplomnats, their spouses and
other dignitaries was made possible when the High Commissioner
for Sri Lanka initiated the tour and made it a dream come true
trip for them.
"This is my first trip to Sri Lanka and I have
not been to India or Pakistan which are bigger countries than
this island," said Ambassador for Russia, Andrey Rozhkov and his
wife Elina Rozhkov.
"We were fascinated when we visited the Temple
of the Tooth Relic. We have not seen a Buddhist Shrine or a
Dagaba and most of what we saw here were for the first time in
our lives," he said.
"Russia is full of churches, snow with little
sunshine, and defence personnel everywhere like here, but Sri
Lanka is so colourful with beautiful beaches, green everywhere
and the most outstanding was the visit to Dalada Maligawa
inner-most sanctum. I count it a great privilege and honour to
receive the blessings at the Sacred place", he said.
"Yes, we know that the Russians are told about a
travel advisory but I saw many foreigners and Russians in
particular, all having a whale of a time. It's true that the
country has some problems but nobody can stop foreigners coming
to Sri Lanka, and here we are! Nobody stopped us from coming. I
will be coming again because five days just flew in a jiffy and
there is much to see," he continued.
The contingent had been shopping, by and large,
and was happy to meet many Sri Lankans who are very warm and
energetic, as the Ambassador admits. "We heard that Sri Lanka
was like Singapore in the 60s and Sri Lankans should take the
initiative to develop the roads, and be advanced in technology,"
The Russian Ambassador and his wife who are
grandparents of two girls, love spicy food, especially hot
curries. "We are going back with beautiful memories of Sri
Lanka, not missing the tea and spices in our baggage.
The Peruvian Ambassador, Jose Arturo Montoya
Stuva and Montoya, were very excited about their trip too. "The
Temple of the Tooth Relic is really a beautiful place to visit.
We are happy to make the choice of coming here. We were
marvelled to see the Sigiriya Rock and the ruins on top. We
wanted to come here long back but finally we made it! The
Ambassador and his spouse are parents of twins; a girl and a boy
and have plans to visit Sri Lanka again. "We are looking forward
to that day," they said.
Elina M. Iwatake, Head of Commercial, BT Global
Services said: "Like the rest in the team, I was moved when I
was blessed and tied the 'Pirith Noola' at Dalada Maligawa. We
heard of the travel advisory, but we were told the problems are
in the North and East. Obviously, we had to only avoid traveling
to those places and be in the safe areas, which we did and
enjoyed the tour relaxingly," said Iwatake and her mother who
The US Ambassador to Singapore, Patricia Herbold
said that most of the places where she had visited during the
tour were not heard of. "I was in for many surprises when I
heard for the first time of the elephant orphanage at Pinnawela
and the Temple of the Tooth Relic," she said.
Talking about the present situation in the
country, she said, "It is true, we hear only negative stories
about Sri Lanka these days, but I must say, after coming here, I
realized there are more positive stories than negative ones. We
also thought twice before coming here but we were given the
proper picture and advised before we came. It was great to visit
Galle Fort, the ramparts, Kandy , Sigiriya, turtle hatchery, to
name a few, and certainly, would like to come to Sri Lanka
again," she enthused.
Her only advice to people who want to travel to
Sri Lanka is, "Get the proper information before planning the
trip, make your own decision and don't take negative stories
The High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Shehan
Ratnavale, who had been busy making all arrangements for the
contingent he brought to his motherland, said, "I am happy that
everything went as planned. I am privileged to bring them here
on January 18th amidst security concerns. It had given them a
positive perception about the country and such trips and visit
will definitely a boost to investment, to strengthen ties and
economic. We missed only two of them who were unable to make it
due to various reasons but there will be more such tours that I
will be working on because problems here is not tourism related
and hotels and foreigners have never had been targets," he