Sri Lanka had the unprecedented distinction of being the “Guest of Honor” at the Gala Diplomatic Garden Party organized by the prestigious “Diplomatique” journal in celebration of the French National Day on July 14th. The event was sponsored by several top-tier French transnational corporations and held at the majestic Pavilion Dauphine in Paris.
The afternoon event that followed the traditional French military parade was graced by over one-thousand eminent invitees that included more than 100 ambassadors, diplomats, international civil servants, French government officials, top officials of international corporations, representatives of travel and trade, media and celebrities. On this truly historic occasion the embassy of Sri Lanka in France captivated the attention and imagination of this unusually large gathering of dignitaries with a visual and choreographic presentation of “Sri Lanka – the Wonder of Asia,” which highlighted the rich ambience of Sri Lanka’s culture, heritage, cuisine, reconciliation and development. The day long activities showcased the extraordinary investment, trade and commerce opportunities that await in Sri Lanka, and why this exquisite island in the Indian Ocean is truly the paradise and miracle destination for tourists and investors alike.
In keeping with the vision of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, “Mahinda Chintana” the Sri Lanka Pavilion highlighted the social and economic achievements of post-conflict Sri Lanka and the vast opportunities that have been created under the five-hub concept whereby Sri Lanka is developed as a hub for energy, aviation, maritime, commerce and knowledge. The pavilion introduced an iconic image of Sri Lanka to the French and international visitors. According to many of the high profile guests it was their first eye opening introduction to the true nature of Sri Lanka and her cultural, social and economic attributes.
The VIP guests were welcomed by a traditional Sri Lankan dance performance. Welcome addresses were delivered by Mr Didier Vidal, Director of the prestigious Diplomatique Journal and Professor Karunaratne Hangawatte, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France and UNESCO. In his speech Mr. Didier Vidal said that he was delighted to see the steps taken by the Sri Lankan Embassy together with the Business Support Organizations of Sri Lanka to promote Sri Lanka in France and hoped that both countries work with mutual understanding to develop a new dimension to France-Sri Lanka Economic Cooperation.
Ambassador Hangawatte in his speech introduced different facets of Sri Lanka. He stated that Sri Lankans have lived for generations in harmony and unison in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society and its recorded history spanning nearly 3000 years is not blemished with religious wars ever. He paid tribute to the resilience, courage and determination of the people of Sri Lanka who ensured that Sri Lanka re-emerged and rebounded.
The Ambassador pointed out that the scale of development currently ongoing in the country is unprecedented in the history of the island. Having declared both the main air ports and the two main sea ports as “free” for the purposes of value-adding via duty free import and export, and having set up Export Processing Zones (EPZs) adjacent to these ports with ready port access while securing investments and manufacturing Sri Lanka seeks to reposition itself as a “top level export point.” He mentioned that according to the World Bank, “Sri Lanka enjoys robust economic growth, well above its regional peers,” and “economic prosperity is broadly shared.” He further said that France’s COFACE, a worldwide leader in credit insurance identifies Sri Lanka among five “emerging” countries that have a sound business climate and strong growth potential.
While pointing out that Sri Lanka is a must visit tourist destination Ambassador Hangawatte stated that “Sri Lanka has been, and continues to thrive in cultural diversity, innovative technical marvels, breathtaking sites of natural beauty and delectable culinary delights. Sri Lanka is blessed with natural beauty of golden beaches, 52 cascading waterfalls, scenic hilly terrain, fauna and flora, green hills, exquisite wild life, man-made wonders and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites that make it rated as a top tourist destination.” He said that, “all of these along with their rich, ancient heritage and most importantly the hospitable people of Sri Lanka, promise you a visit you will never forget and provide an opportunity to share a piece of paradise. From wildlife and nature sanctuaries, to kayaking, canoeing and white water rafting as well as snorkeling and scuba diving, and whale and dolphin watching, among a myriad other activities in varying terrain from the golden beaches to the tea capped mountains and from lush forests to ecologically friendly environments, Sri Lanka is undoubtedly the ‘Wonder of Asia’.”
United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ranks France as the world’s fifth most important outbound tourism market by expenditure. The French generally look for quality accommodation, food, excursions and other holiday-related experiences. As such, per-trip spending tends to be high. The Sri Lanka event highlighted what French Traveller expects to the fullest, with Mount Lavinia Hotel and Cinnamon Hotels showcasing the best of Sri Lankan hospitality and luxury.
The guests lined up to visit the Sri Lanka pavilion to get a glimpse of the beauty, culture, development, and herbal and spa treatments, natural and organic products for a healthy life, hospitality and cuisine of Sri Lanka, and world renowned Sri Lanka tea. The guests had the opportunity to learn about the booming investment, trade and commerce opportunities that are awaiting them in Sri Lanka.
At the pavilion the investment promotion was conducted under the theme, “Investment Opportunities in the Emerging Economy of Sri Lanka.” Several senior partners and officials of corporations involved in infrastructure, transport and energy sectors visited the Sri Lanka Pavilion and expressed enthusiasm. The emphasis of the benefits for potential investors and the major infrastructure drive covering sea ports, airports, roads, electricity and rail transport undertaken in Sri Lanka to make Sri Lanka a more conducive investment location brought the attention of many key cooperate sector guests. As French companies invest abroad more than in the domestic market this event will undoubtedly serve as an advocate in attracting French investments to Sri Lanka.
The guests were served with mouth-watering Sri Lankan cuisine prepared by The Mount Lavinia hotel’s master chef, Publis. Dilmah ,Siddalepa and Gyuapi Lanka showcased Sri Lanka’s targeted export items to France. These included different flavours of premier Ceylon tea which is something of a niche but mature category in France, Herbal and Spa Products, Kitul Treacle or in French sève de Kitul which is fast becoming popular among the French. Health and wellness tourism in France is expected to increase in constant value at 8% over the forecast period, with rising demand driven by shifting consumer preferences and developing demographic trends. Sri Lanka Pavilion offered the guests a taste of Emerging Export Product, King Coconut Water, Sri Lanka fruits such as Rambutan, Mangoes and Pineapple. Many guests started networking and developing important links which would certainly advance tourism, Trade and Investment sectors of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka Pavilion was decorated aptly to promote Sri Lanka as a key tourist destination in Asia, simultaneously focusing on her strengths for trade, commerce and investment. The Board of Investments, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Export Development Board, Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce linked with the Embassy in this unprecedented promotion of different facets of Sri Lanka to a rare gathering of over one-thousand high calibre guests representing different sectors of interest.
Quite fittingly for the occasion Ambassador Hangawatte declared open the Sri Lanka pavilion by announcing, “Come visit Sri Lanka, the “Wonder of Asia” and be greeted with 20 million smiles!”
Embassy of Sri Lanka
[Via Sri Express]