Plans afoot to train 600 Dutch travel agents to tap tourism market potential – SL Ambassador

In The Netherlands


by Harischandra Gunaratna

In conjunction with Sri Lanka Tourism, Colombo’s Embassy in The Hague has taken the initiative to train 600 Dutch travel agents specializing in Sri Lanka as there is a hitherto untapped market in that part of the world, says Buddhi Athauda, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to The Netherlands.

"There are ready opportunities to promote bilateral trade between the two countries, he stressed.

The envoy said the production of documentaries highlighting the multitude of tourist attractions that Sri Lanka offers are on the cards. This is in addition to the routine promotions where FAM tours would be organized to the country so that those trained could gain a first-hand account about the island nation, the hospitality of its people, which is well-known in The Netherlands, and the fascinating tourist attractions.

Athauda, a seasoned campaigner in the diplomatic circles in Europe, served as Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Frankfurt during the crucial stage when the LTTE’s scourge of terror was at its height, prior to assuming duties as the Ambassador to The Hague.

He stressed the need to make Sri Lanka the tourism and trading hub in South Asia as "we have all the makings to achieve the goal if a genuine and a concerted effort is made by all stakeholders".

"The peace dividend achieved in 2009 made all the difference and we should work towards achieving our goal before the euphoria is lost", he noted.

The Dutch authorities have welcomed President Rajapaksa’s vision to make Sri Lanka a trading hub in South Asia, the Ambassador said.

Athauda said that according to estimates, there are over 600 ship wrecks in the seas around Sri Lanka, and as the Dutch had high level maritime activity in this part of the region from 1656-1790, it is a high-end niche market, which could bring in millions of dollars of foreign exchange as there were scores of explorers who have expressed willingness to come here, but the product has to be marketed vigorously.

There were around 35 Dutch Forts in the country and many other historic attractions belonging to the Dutch period which would easily attract the holidaymakers from The Netherlands and the families of those who served here during the Dutch period, he explained. "It would be a sentimental journey for them".

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