Sri Lanka eyes promise of Indian tourists

It’s a peaceful country. Come visit us with no fear, said Hiran Cooray, chairman, Jetwing Group, Sri Lanka.

With a bloody civil war that raged for well over 30 years, Sri Lanka was not on the radar of most travellers. But today it’s a country raring to go and nowhere is this more evident than the priority it has accorded to tourist infrastructure and the state-of the-art expressways coming up to ease nightmarish traffic jams.

At the SriLankan Holidays and SriLankan MICE conference 2013 held here recently, Cooray recalled the country’s agonizing years. “We lost 30 years of tourism during the conflict. It was a period of unbelievable agony, but Lankans kept smiling through it all. The tsunami brought tourism to a halt again. But it (tourism) being a resilient industry, bounced back.”

Surprisingly, India reigns as Lanka’s biggest tourist market with 83,981 tourists visiting this small island nation till June, followed by Britain and Germany. “Indians evincing interest in our country even as European nations continued to issue travel advisories was a turning point for Lankan tourism,” added Wanigasekera. Sri Lanka is clearly eying its slice of the pie with Indians’ spending power rising and outbound tourism expected to rise by 50 million in 2020. The Ramayana Trail is hugely popular with Indian religious tourists despite some historians questioning its veracity.

Another segment the island nation is pulling out all stops is in MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tourism. It’s the new arm of SriLankan Holidays. “Sri Lanka’s transformation from a typical holiday getaway to an important MICE destination sought after by international event planners will fetch us dividends,” says Nishantha Wickremasinghe, chairman SriLankan Airlines. Corporate traffic is clearly on the mind of the airlines. “Only transport cannot keep an airlines afloat,” he adds. In November, the country will play host to Miss France.

[Via The Times of India]


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