Saturday, 28 August 2010
In an article published on August 25 titled 'Sri Lanka tops the charts for UK tourists on a bargain hunt,' the influential paper says that visits from the UK increased by 51 per cent last month compared with 2009, encouraged by big discounting by airlines and hoteliers striving to win back business.
The story explains that the British travel boom to Sri Lankan is due to "the relative calm restored after decades of bombings and bloody battles with the Tamil Tigers and devastation caused by the tsunami in 2004."
The Times says that one British-based specialist long-haul tour operator, Hayes and Jarvis, reports that bookings for winter and next summer are also up.
The paper adds that some of the best deals for British holidaymakers can be found at the five-star Heritance Ahungalla - designed by the celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa - one of the best beach hotels in the country.
The total number of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka went up 50 per cent to 63,339 in July 2010, compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, according to figures released by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. In July 2009 only 42,223 tourists arrived in Sri Lanka.
The tourism office figures showed an increase in the number of arrivals from Western Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Middle East and North America in July 2010.
Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka increased by 48.4% during the first half of 2010 (January-June), with a total of 278,652 arrivals to the country in comparison to 187,729 arrivals during the same period last year (2009).
Sri Lanka was recently ranked as the number one tourist destination by the 'New York Times' in its list of "31 Places to go in 2010".
Just days after this ranking, a leading lifestyle web resource, Daily Candy, weighed in with a similarly enthusiastic travel recommendation, praising Sri Lanka as "the best place ever been".
The United Kingdom recently stated that it is no longer advising its citizens against travel to Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya.
Commenting on changes to the UK Government's official advice on travel to Sri Lanka, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: 'Regarding the Jaffna Peninsula: there is free movement everywhere outside High Security Zones with a reduction in checkpoints around the Peninsula."
USA and Germany too recently relaxed travel advisories. The German Embassy said that a long standing travel advisory had been eased enabling German tourists to visit earlier restricted locations such as Yala National Park and Arugam Bay.
The government had announced it was withdrawing the landing endorsements from September 30 in a move widely seen as potentially damaging to the island's tourism industry, which is recovering from 37 years of ethnic conflict.
"Notice is hereby given that the earlier public notice on 'Withdrawal of on-arrival visa facility' be treated as withdrawn until further notice," immigration controller W.A.C. Perera said in a statement posted on his website.
There was no further comment from the government.
Perera had said those visiting Sri Lanka would be expected to obtain a visa from a Sri Lankan mission abroad before arriving on the island.
However, visitors from Singapore and the Maldives, which grant Sri Lankan passport holders visa on arrival, were to be exempted from the restriction.
The decision to tighten entry controls came as the government raised fears that Tamil Tiger rebels may try to regroup and revive their separatist movement with the help of ethnic Tamils living abroad.
The US state department warns its nationals of Sri Lankan descent that they may be subjected to additional scrutiny on arrival at Colombo's international airport.
"In some cases, foreigners of Sri Lankan origin may be detained without their embassies being notified," the state department said in its travel advisory to US citizens.
Sri Lanka has granted tourists a 30-day visa on arrival since the 1970s as part of a move to promote tourism, which was badly affected by the island's ethnic conflict which ended in May last year with the crushing of Tigers.
The local tourism industry has been buoyed by a near 50 percent increase in foreign visitors since the end of fighting last year.
Sri Lanka hopes to double the number of visiting tourists this year to 600,000.
Friday, 27 August 2010
JKH said it had sold the 'head lease' of Alidoo Island, which was located in the northern most atoll in the archipelago and in return received a 18 year head lease for Dhonveli resort which was 15 minutes by speedboat from the capital, Male.
The group had previously had a 'sub lease' for Dhonveli until 2021, JKH said in a statement.
The switch did not involve capital gains to the group.
But the Alidhoo island was making losses, and Dhonveli was more profitable the firm said.
The Maldives government leases uninhabited islands to resort operators. Lease rentals are a key source of revenue for the state.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
This was agreed to at a meeting here today between visiting Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Minister for Tourism and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja.
An official press release said Ms Selja expressed happiness over the fact that India received a sizable number of tourists from Sri Lanka and that the Buddhist sites in the country were their most favoured destinations.
She suggested both countries could cooperate in the field of human resource development, destination management and promotion in the tourism sector. She also called for stronger linkages between various stakeholders such as travel and tour operators and hoteliers in the two countries.
Ms Selja said both the countries could undertake joint promotion and marketing to increase the tourist arrivals in the region. She stressed the need to promote intra-regional tourism. She also proposed joint meetings between the two countries at official and stakeholders' levels.
The Minister said there was need for better packagig of South Asian tourist destinations to the outside world. She felt the two countries could promote cruise tourism jointly.
Mr Rajapaksa also evinced keen interest in the Government of India's housing and urban poverty alleviation programmes. Ms Selja gave details about initiatives such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Rajiv Awas Yojana, which is aimed at making India a slum free country.
The Sri Lankan Minister said both countries had to cope with growing urbanisation and could exchange information on matters relating to slum development and street vending management to make life better for the urban poor.
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Total hotel expansion and development spending is estimated at AED 18 billion (USD 5 Billion) while projected inbound tourism arrival is expected to cross 2.5 million by 2016.
The boom in tourism is projected in the wake of increased demand for hotel rooms post conflict resolution. All this will help accommodate the exponential increase in tourist arrival expected.
In the Middle East alone, tourism arrivals for the first six months of 2010 reported an enormous surge in the number of Saudi Arabian travellers to Sri Lanka, according to figures compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s (SLTPB) Middle East office. “Arrivals rose by an unprecedented 96 per cent in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year,” said Ms. Heba Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of SLTPB based in Dubai. According to recent statistics compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, the total number of travellers from the Middle East region reflected a phenomenal upsurge with arrivals increasing by 102 per cent over the same period.
“Regardless of apprehensions of an unsteady global economy, Middle East’s discerning travellers are spending time and money on travel and Sri Lanka has been one of the preferred destinations of choice with a meteoric rise in tourists during H1 2010,” observed Ms Al Mansoori.
John Keells Holdings (JKH) invested AED 13 million (400 million LKR) to upgrade and rebrand Club Oceanic to Chaaya Blu in Trincomalee. The group has currently undertaken an AED 65.4 million (2 billion LKR) investment on a new 4 star 190-room hotel in the Beruwela area. Coral Gardens in Hikkaduwa, Bentota Beach and Habarana Lodge are all being given a facelift with the total renovation costing up to AED 49 million (1.6 billion LKR). The chain also has lands in Ahungalla, Wirawila and Nilaweli, upon which new properties are planned.
In line with the rewards conversion programme, King Club members will need a minimum of 1500 HSBC reward points (1,000 Mileage Rewards points and 500 Normal Reward points) to get 500 King Miles. To celebrate the tie-up, King Club is offering HSBC Credit Cardholders the following benefits:
* A credit of 20 per cent bonus King miles on conversion of HSBC points to King Miles between August 25, 2010 to November 25, 2010 will increase the overall points available for redemption.
* 1000 bonus miles on enrollment into King Club programme for those HSBC Sri Lanka card holders who are not currently King Club members from August 25, 2010 to November 25, 2010.
* Cardholder Flies Free – An HSBC credit card holder who purchases a return ticket in Kingfisher First on the Chennai-Colombo sector using the HSBC credit card for their family / friends, will get to fly free on the Colombo-Chennai-Colombo route in Kingfisher First anytime between August 25, 2010 to November 25, 2010.
* A special ten per cent off from the rack price on any Kingfisher Holidays package from anywhere across the Kingfisher Airlines network between August 25, 2010 to February 24, 2011.
Commenting on this unique initiative, Anshu Sarin, Vice President – Guest Loyalty and Kingfisher Holidays, Kingfisher Airlines Limited said, “At King Club, our vision is to deliver a host of unmatched and innovative benefits across the world to our members, in collaboration with leading national and international brands. The alliance with HSBC Bank, Sri Lanka is yet another initiative that will expand the range of rewards that we offer our King Club guests.”
Sarit Wijeyekoon, Head of Personal Financial Services HSBC, Sri Lanka said, “We are happy to have entered into a strategic partnership with Kingfisher Airlines. This will enable our card holders to enjoy the many benefits offered and to experience frequent travel opportunities.”
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
According to a report in Business Line, at Passekudah, the company will develop a 50-villa boutique resort in the first phase with an investment of USD 4.5 million. Passekudah will be a beach resort with individual and clusters of two and four villas. The company has identified a six-acre property in line with the Master Plan of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).
Preparatory work for Passekudah has started with the project targeted for completion by December 2011. Architects Co-Partnership, Colombo, an architectural firm in Sri Lanka, has been appointed for this project.
Monday, 23 August 2010
A group of 25 tourists is visiting Sri Lanka from August 20-29, 2010 and is accompanied by Ambassador Wickramasuriya. Travelers on the inaugural trip include an award-winning travel writer, a Hollywood film professional, and executives from a variety of companies.
|Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya. / Image via tamilnet.com|
"It is our pleasure to bring this group of American travelers to Sri Lanka," said Ambassador Wickramasuriya. "I look forward to introducing the travelers to our island of unrivaled splendor and our welcoming culture. I know our journey will be an eye-opening experience that will highlight Sri Lanka's boundless potential."
The 12-day itinerary includes travel from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo to the UN World Heritage site of the Galle Fort and then a visit to the renowned countryside and tea fields of Nuwara Eliya. Working with the Embassy, the itinerary was organized by Jetwing Travels, a leading travel company in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this year, The New York Times named Sri Lanka its number one travel destination in 2010 and National Geographic ranked Sri Lanka second among its top 25 places to visit in 2010.
The Embassy plans to arrange Signature Tours on an annual basis.
Due to the stable, peaceful conditions in Sri Lanka since the May 2009 end of a conflict against the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the number of tourist arrivals has increased by 50 percent during the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. The US Department of State in May recognized the lasting peace and lifted a travel advisory.
"We believe we are just scratching the surface of our tourism market and we look forward to continued growth," Ambassador Wickramasuriya said.
Guidance and cooperation extended by Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Development, and officials at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) were essential in the timely implementation of this initiative.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Well-known as the luxurious hideaway for exotically romantic honeymooners, Saman Villas, the award winning boutique hotel kept a step forward with an entire new look, major upgrading of its facilities and a complete transformation.
Perched on a rocky headland dividing two long seemingly endless, surf swept, unspoilt beached of golden sand backed by the luscious greenery of coconut plantations in the quite, sleepy fishing village of Aruruwella, Bentota, This first ever boutique hotel is now working on its vision to be One of the Best Boutique Hotels in Asia.
Started as early as 1995, Saman Villas strove for excellence from the outset and it was the first hotel in Sri Lanka to become Members of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, by invitation – a partnership that continued for 9 years. Subsequently Saman Villas became members of Great Hotels Organizations, Luxury Travel Collection, Conde Nast Johansens Recommended Spas and Select Hotels & Resorts International, who carry a portfolio of luxury hotels and resorts worldwide.
Locally, Saman Villas was honoured with the Hall of Fame Award at the 2010 Presidential Awards for Travel & Tourism as the Best Boutique Hotel in Sri Lanka.
In preparation for the boom in Sri Lanka Tourism and to be able to cater to the growing demands of the top-end traveller, Saman Villas ventured on its the second major refurbishment with an extensive refurbishment project beginning of this year.
Re-opened on last August 12, the boutique hotel has undergone a major transformation after its 90 million refurbishment programme boasting a new look and feel to its overall product, but keeping the distinct Sri Lankan concept, for which it has become renowned.
Major modifications have taken place in the guest rooms and toilets, focusing on luxurious, comfort guaranteed to wrap its guests up in complete serenity. The inclusion of soothing water features and a complete over-haul of fixtures and fittings, including an oversized terrazzo bath tub and an innovatively designed open-air shower complement the air of tranquil indulgence.
All Deluxe Suites with Pools have seen a size enhancement and include an additional side entrance, which opens out in a private garden patio that can only be approached from within the suite itself.
The coir carpets on the sleeping deck have been replaced by teak boarded flooring, and the balcony and terrace furniture has been replaced with a more elegant, wooden design, with a touch of rustic steel, all adding to the plush, yet contemporary ambience that has been created throughout the hotel.
The delegation met External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris at his Ministry and held discussions recently.
The Chairman and CEO of the Shangri-La Asia Ean Khoon Kouk during his discussion with Minister Peiris said that in keeping with the vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to promote Sri Lanka as an emerging economic hub, the delegation will explore the possibilities of opening hotels in Sri Lanka.
Prof. Peiris responding to the delegation pointed out that Sri Lanka was fast emerging as a much sought after investment location following the return of peace to the country with the defeat of terrorism over a year ago.
Among those participating in the meeting were Madhu Ramachandran Rao, General Manager Shangri La Asia, Wolf Dieter Flecker Shangri La Asia, Sajjad Mawzoon Managing Director Pyramid Wimar Pte Ltd, Romesh Jayasinghe Secretary Ministry of External Affairs, Ranjith Uyangoda Additional Secretary MEA, Nalaka Godahewa Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Development, Janaka Kulakulasuriya Chairman Urban Development Authority, Duminda Ariyasingha (BOI) and other officials.
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
The increasing trend continued in 2010, with each month showing increases of over 30 percent compared to 2009. By the end of July, there was an increase of 49 percent on arrivals, year-on-year. Of course, the comparison is against one of the worst periods for tourism (during early 2009 when the war was at a peak). However, by July last year, the recovery was well on its way, and July 2010 shows a very healthy 50 percent growth compared to July 2009 - indicating that this boom we see, appears to be very real.
The market mix is still heavily weighted towards the Western Europe region, which amounts to almost 40 percemt of the entire market share (with UK accounting for about 45 percent of this segment), confirming that Sri Lanka is still predominantly dependant on the Western tourist, contrary to what is being talked about.
However, South Asia is beginning to carve out a major share of almost 26 percent of the total market. Of this South Asian segment, India, as expected, accounts for 70 percent of the share, confirming the fact that it is fast becoming an important market for Sri Lanka. In real terms, visitors from India top the list up to July this year at 64,223, while UK with 59,721 arrivals, is a close second. Germany (25,040), the Middle East (20,627), and France (17,218) account for the other major shares.
The forex earnings for the first quarter also show a healthy increase of 69 percent, year-on-year. This is a direct indication of higher yields (since traditional last-minute discounting of the hotel rates due to the war situation did not occur this year, and thus, prevailing contracted rates were not diluted).
This translates into about US$870 per tourist spend, and assuming an average stay per tourist of 10 days, this indicates an approximate average of US$87 spend per day per tourist, which again is an improvement from the current US$80. These augers well for the future, and with a higher post war rate structure expected after November this year, annual earning should surpass US$500 million. Then perhaps annual tourism earnings for 2010 will regain some of the lost ground, after falling to be the 6th largest forex earner for the country, down from its original position of 4th a few years back.
2011 looks set to live up to its name as "Visit Sri Lanka Year" from early on, as tourism to the country continues to grow in the second half of 2010. A change in FCO advice, lifting all travel restrictions and UNESCO's decision to add an eighth Sri Lankan property to its list of World Heritage Sites means that more people are making Sri Lanka their holiday destination of choice.
Latest figures from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau show that visitors from the UK are up 51% in July 2010 compared with July 2009, with more UK citizens choosing the country as their summer holiday destination. Beach resorts of Bentota and Negombo on the west coast, close to capital Colombo, are welcoming a large majority of the visitors as they opt for Sri Lanka's golden sands and enjoy the clear warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Day trips and short excursions from their base on the coast, see visitors also heading into the central areas to experience some of the Cultural Triangle's highlights; Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy.
After 30 years, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has lifted all travel restrictions to Sri Lanka, meaning that UK tourists are free to explore all that the country has to offer. The Tourism Promotion Bureau is keen to encourage visitors to the newly reopened areas to the East of the country, where visitors can enjoy remote beaches such as Arugam Bay and Trincomalee, and a plethora of wildlife at Yala National Park. They are keen to emphasise that Sri Lanka is a safe and affordable family friendly, soft adventure and wildlife destination.
More good news came as UNESCO's World Heritage Committee met and announced the inclusion of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka as a World Heritage Site, taking the country's total number of properties to a spectacular eight. The Central Highlands joins the popular tourist spots of Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Galle, Kandy and the Golden Temple of Dambulla. The area, which compromises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest, was chosen for its extraordinary range of flora and fauna. It is home to several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced-langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. Its new status as a World Heritage Site should preserve these species for future generations and allow the area to flourish as a super biodiversity hotspot.
2011 has been officially declared "Visit Sri Lanka Year" by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and promises to be a spectacular show of Sri Lanka's natural, cultural and historic diversity. Infrastructure within the country continues to improve as new hotels and better road networks are built to cope with the increasing popularity. If recent trends are anything to go by, 2011 looks set to start in style and live up to its promises.
“Given the rapid growth of tourism in Sri Lanka, Jetwing seeks to refurbish its current properties and expand its room stock through new ventures,” said Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray.
“In respect of refurbishment, Jetwing has made a conscious effort to upgrade all of its properties gradually to 4-5 star (small luxury) properties.” Sri Lanka has seen a 48.4% in inbound tourism for the first half of 2010.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
'The upgrade was made because of the revival of tourism and associated economies in the region,' said the airline’s Senior Vice President/ Commercial Operations, West Asia & Indian Ocean, Majid Al Mualla.
“There is increasing demand for seats on the Male-Colombo sector, and Emirates is happy to be in a position to respond quickly to the emerging demand,” he said.
“The additional frequencies to and from Colombo will be welcomed by Maldivians and expatriates alike, as will the convenient departure times from the two cities.
According to the new schedule, Emirates flights EK652 and EK654 will depart Male at 16:30 and arrive in Colombo at 18:30. On Wednesdays and Fridays, EK654 will continue on to Dubai from Colombo.
The return flight EK653 - operating on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - will depart Colombo at 21:35 and arrive in Male at 22:35.
These flights will be served by Emirates’ Airbus A330-200 aircraft in a three-class configuration, with 12 seats in First Class, 42 seats in Business Class and 183 seats in Economy Class, HNS reported.
The decision came following a security assessment led by Deputy High Commissioner Mark Gooding, who visited the Northern provinces in June and drew positive conclusions from the positive action being taken towards security and reconciliation by the Sri Lankan Government. The USA removed its advisory travel restrictions in May.
The British Ambassador in Colombo Peter Hayes said in a statement: "This latest change means we no longer advise against travel to any part of Sri Lanka.”
The ending of restrictive travel advice is a welcome development for the growing Sri Lankan tourism sector, which has experienced a near 50% increase in visitor numbers this year.
Sri Lanka’s rich culture and diverse natural beauty have attracted 279,000 tourists so far this year, of which nearly 45,000 came from the UK. It is expected that the newly announced decision by the British Government will further increase the numbers of tourists visiting the island. The Sri Lankan Government has already declared 2011 ‘Visit Sri Lanka’ year.
A Sri Lankan Government spokesman said, “This decision marks yet another indication of the return to peace in Sri Lanka following the end of our 30 year war against terrorism. Other recent positive developments include the lifting of travel restrictions from the US State Department in May and Sri Lanka’s removal from the Lloyd’s Joint Cargo Watch List in July.
“The Sri Lankan Government has undertaken a range of actions since the end of the conflict including the scaling back of emergency regulations as well as tailored development initiatives specifically targeting the north of the island, to ensure security, normality and prosperity return to these beautiful regions of our island as soon as possible.”
The journal says that there are significant and unexpected developments in the port, aviation and investment sectors. The government of Sri Lanka has been able to increase production in the country based on indigenous economic plans. It also points out that a massive progress has been made by Sri Lanka in the Tourism Industry following the defeat of terrorism.
Some 15.3% of 447,890 tourists who visited the island last year are youth, he said. Sri Lanka’s strategy will be to reach the target audience through cost effective media in which the Internet will play a key role. Since the youth market’s primary source of information is the Internet the cost of reaching such a target will equally be cost effective, the official said.
New social network marketing tools such as Second Life, Facebook and You-Tube have given the perfect platform for Sri Lanka Tourism to reach this segment interactively, he added. The Sri Lanka Tourism web site will very soon have features which are popular with the youth traveller including price comparison, information on the authentic experience, booking facilities, etc.
According to the strategic marketing plan of Sri Lanka Tourism, a new tourism segment called social tourism is to be popularised where the youth tourists are engaged in various social responsibility programs in the country, he revealed. With the increase in youth tourist arrivals, Sri Lanka would be known as an ideal destination not only for authenticity, bio and cultural diversity and sandy beaches but also for ‘social tourism’, providing ample opportunity to meet the Sri Lankan population and learn about their lifestyle.