Sri Lanka draws more conferences and incentives

More than 50 international and regional events this year

By Gerardine Donough-Tan 17 March 2015

Sri Lanka is looking beyond its sub-continent for business events as foreign interest grows and infrastructure improves. While 2014 saw many international conferences such as in construction, transport and rubber, there will be more than 50 international and regional conferences this year.

Vipula Wanigasekera, CEO of Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), says: “With infrastructure development, including new properties, the conference business is catching up very fast. Sri Lanka also offers locations and products of diverse nature—that helps incentive programmes and our industry experts can put together creative, value-for-money propositions.”

SLCB has five separate strategies for meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions and events, each with a target market and promotional strategy.

Asia Pacific is key for conferences; India and Europe for incentives; and India and the Far East for corporate meetings. However, exhibitions are still mainly regional.

Big local professional conference organisers and destination management companies share SLCB’s optimism.

Ziyan Ameen, Aitken Spence Conventions & Exhibitions assistant general manager, says: “We see strong growth in incentives and conferences. There is increasing outbound travel from China, and corporate meetings from Southeast Asia.

“Aitken Spence has partnered with Pacific World to operate Pacific World Sri Lanka and Pacific World Maldives, drawing incentive groups from around the world.”

Walkers Tours has managed large groups from India, such as a 1,600-member Philips contingent this January that was spread across four five-star hotels and met at Sri Lanka Exhibition & Convention Centre. Other big groups were from Domino’s Pizza and Coca-Cola. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are future target markets.

Foreign players are also entering the market. Sphere Conferences from Singapore, a ‘first movers’ in Myanmar, has ventured into Sri Lanka. Investors and developers at its inaugural Sri Lanka Hospitality Investment Conference in 2014 showed such keen interest in the Indian Ocean region that this year’s conference in May will cover Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka.

More fights, visas on arrival and online and the Colombo-Katunayake airport expressway are facilitating travel. Hilton will soon see other global brands opening—Hyatt, Marriott and Mövenpick, and Sheraton and Shangri-La in 2016-2017.

[ Via Cei.Asia ]

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