When the tourism and hospitality world gathered in Dubai, UAE for the Arabian Travel Market, participants at the high profile event were unanimous that the annual event provides them enabling environment to advance their hospitality businesses. One of such participants was Sri Lanka. On its 14th consecutive outing since 2003 at an expo which witnessed a gathering of the best in hospitality and tourism businesses, the Asian countryâ€™s team was led by her Assistant Director Tourism Promotion Bureau, Mr. Ajantha Rathnayake. In an encounter with Kasie Abone who attended the expo, Rathnayake explained why tourists should look to Sri Lanka as the global destination of choice and why the country is tagged Wonders of Asia
Arabian Travel Market offered the Asian tourism and hospitality world an opportunity to showcase their travel and tourism potentials not only to that region but to the rest of hospitality world. And so the A list event had countries from different parts of the world in attendance showcasing innovations in their various hospitality businesses. One of such exhibitors was Sri Lanka. With screaming, ambitious tag line â€œWonder of Asiaâ€ caught the attention of this reporter who also attended the expo. Why on earth tiny Asian island should make such bold claim, our correspondent wondered. The Assistant Director in the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, an arm of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, Mr. Ajantha Rathnayake, was on hand at the exhibition stand to provide answers to our curious minds.
A paradise of culture, wild life and outdoor adventure, Rathnayake explained that Sri Lanka adorned its tag because of its â€œpristine beaches, lush tropical nature, rich cultural heritage, diverse wildlife and unlimited options for sports and outdoor activities.
Giving further insight into the exotic island, he said â€œSri Lanka is consisted with millions of natural advantages by having the highest bio diversity in Asia backed by a strong culture, historical artifacts, exotic beaches, green environment and friendly people. As an island, Sri Lanka tourism promotes authenticity, compactness and diversity as its unique selling propositions.â€
All these combine to make Sri Lanka an ideal destination for a perfectly balanced holiday of relaxation, leisure and excitement. These features no doubt accounted for the achievements recorded by the countryâ€™s tourism industry in 2016 when it recorded the highest tourist arrivals in history. With over two million visits accounting for 22.1 per cent rise compared to 2015 figure of about one million seven hundred visits, the industry has continued to experience a steady growth rate year on year since 2011 with 855, 975 visits. With an estimated growth rate of 26 per cent, the beautiful island which is home to both the blue whale, Asian elephant, several national parks and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites Sri Lanka is positioned to hit 2.4 million visits this year.
To achieve this mark, Rathnayake explained that the Sri Lankan Government is committed to diversifying tourism offering through efficient connectivity across the island, enhancement of products and elevating service standards. This is in addition to the introduction of a new zonal development to tourism with special emphasis on preservation of cultural, religious and natural resources.
As other nations in the region are also upping their game as an alternative revenue stream Sri Lanka is not resting on its oars. To this end, the assistant director said his country has devised an eight-point agenda to make the country remain highly competitive as a destination of choice.
Some of the unique selling points which the country continues to build on include as a destination strategically located at the cross roads of both East and West routes which serves as the point of entry to South Asia, major international lines like Emirates, Qatar Airway, Oman Air, Sri Lankan, Etihad, and others operate frequent flights from Sri Lanka to major cities in the Middle East; the island offers a safe destination to tourists across all parts of the country as well as easy access to visa which is available online; while the Eastern part of the country offers an exciting experience in the finest of beaches, surf and whale watching, the North boasts of historical temples, beaches while the central and Southern parts wows with games sanctuaries.
For a business minded Nigerian traveler, the country presents not only exotic experiences but also a preferred destination for global trade. For instance, Sri Lanka is known for preferred ethical sourcing capital of the world for apparel with key apparel companies. The country is also noted for ethically manufactured cleanest tea as per â€˜Kyoto Protocolâ€™ and a global leader in black tea. Additionally, Sri Lanka is known as the worldâ€™s blue sapphire capital with Princess Dianaâ€™s wedding ring generous Ceylon sapphire. It also reputed to supply 90 per cent of the global demand for cinnamon.
With the development of high mobility networks and intense focus on creating a business friendly especially with the tourisms â€˜One Stop Shopâ€™(a centralised promotion and facilitation centre created to assist potential tourism investors in investing a minimum of $2 million) environment, there is no doubt that Sri Lanka is ready to take on the hospitality and tourism world.