Deputy Minister outlines ambitious plans to develop Sri Lanka’s tourism industry



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Arundika Fernando


by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London


Deputy Tourism Minister Arundika Fernando said that he discussed with World Travel Market (WTM) organizers in London to give preference to the country next year when Sri Lanka’s tourism industry celebrates its 50th anniversary.


"I also held talks with various travel organizers from different countries who gathered at the WTM to put an action plan in place to promote Sri Lanka", he emphasized in an interview with The Sunday Island,


Explaining his delayed arrival at the WTM, Fernando said that he had to step in at the eleventh hour as Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, who was planning to attend the London event, was indisposed. "I was asked to represent him and there was a delay in obtaining a British visa".


"Sri Lanka Tourism was able to accrue a lot of benefits despite my late arrival at the WTM", he noted.


A discussion was held with the senior officials of the TUI group regarding the launch of new charter flights to Sri Lanka from the UK in winter 2016. TUI (Touristik Union International) is a multinational German Travel & Tourism company. TUI is expected to have one flight every week and 7,200 passengers during winter 2016, the Deputy Minister said.


"I have also spoken to many foreign journalists and social media representatives, especially to Trip Advisor, to get the maximum publicity for Sri Lanka Tourism", Fernando said. Trip Advisor, an American travel website, is said to be the largest travel site.


He also held a reception for bloggers at the Sri Lanka stand to organize two or three familiarization tours for them in 2016. This is a new initiative in addition to the current media Familiarization Tour Strategy.


Fernando also met with the president of ANTOR (Association of National Tourist Offices and Representatives), which is the principal lobbying organization for the world’s tourist offices. Discussion took place for Sri Lanka to play a more proactive role in the organization in the future.


He also held discussions with SriLankan Airline officials to plan a strategy and work together to increase visitor numbers from the UK in the future.


"We have a budget of over Rs. 2 billion for promotional activities. You cannot use those funds for any other purpose. It is sad to see that the money had not been utilized previously to promote Sri Lanka. I can also see that some funds have been wasted by not monitoring the promotional activities properly. We have a plan now to use these funds wisely, he explained.


"We plan to refurbish internal airports and start more domestic flights soon to boost tourism. The Seaplane concept is not a viable option as only passengers can travel on them and no luggage can be taken", the Deputy Minister pointed out.


"We help people who start echo tourism businesses by giving them loans under competitive rates of interest and also provide the necessary technical advice", he said.


 He said that there is also a plan to invite a sizeable contingent of journalists from around the world to Sri Lanka to boost the country’s tourism image. "We also want to get down foreign TV crews for productions on Sri Lanka."


He said that the main source of income for Sri Lanka in the future will be tourism. "We have an eight point plan to develop Sri Lanka Tourism. Our strategy is to give eight different experiences to tourists in eight days. The eight categories revolve around beaches, scenic beauty, sports & adventure, wild Life, history & heritage, ayurvedic treatment and spa, people, culture and festivals.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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