Rs. 400 m to lure visitors from new markets | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Rs. 400 m to lure visitors from new markets

Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage

The Mattala International Airport will be reopened soon to accommodate the excess traffic to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga said last week. The Mattala airport was closed due to logistical and operational issues that made the location commercially non viable. Congestion at the BIA due to landing limitations and accommodation has posed a major challenge to the tourism industry which is hoping to achieve 2.3 million visitors this year. The closure of the BIA early this year for renovation followed by the adverse weather and the dengue epidemic had a negative impact on tourist arrivals this year. “The withdrawal of flights from traditional markets in Europe had an impact on arrival of travellers from Europe this year. We are focusing on Chinese and Indian markets which have great potential for the tourism industry,” the Minister said.

The outbreak of dengue resulted in the cancellation of bookings from many leading markets.

“We expect the rest of the year to be peaceful without major hiccups that would go well for the industry,” Amaratunga said. However, the tourism industry is optimistic of going beyond last year’s arrival figures and reach the target for this year. Tourist arrivals recorded a 4.3 percent growth from January to August this year. MICE tourism which contributes to the tourist arrivals and earnings recorded a 3.4 percent growth from the Indian travel sector which notched around 280,000 visitors up to August this year.

The MICE sector targets 400,000 visitors this year up from last year’s figure of 360,000.

“The target for MICE arrivals is one million travellers in the next few years,” a Tourism Promotion Bureau official said.

“We have enormous potential to attract more visitors from the MICE and the general travel sector. We could easily cross the 400,000 mark from the MICE sector and attract more visitors from the non MICE sector. We must take a cue from Spain which attracts around 63 million visitors a year,” Amaratunga said.

He said that the Prime Minister is keen to let the hall at his office to be used for conferences and other MICE events.

Around 4,000 guests could be accommodated in the hall.

“The temporary structure behind the main hall at the BMICH could accommodate around 4000-5000 visitors,” the minister said.

However, Sri Lanka is way behind many tourist destinations in the region in terms of visitors and revenue generation from tourism.

The Tourism Promotion Bureau has launched a digital marketing campaign to lure in visitors from new markets. Around Rs. 400 million has been allocated for the project which will be implemented in two phases. The European market will be targeted under the first phase and the Chinese and Indian markets will be targeted under the second phase.

Sri Lanka Tourism has lined up a series of events such as the Chinese New Year celebrations in Pasikuda in February next year which will comprise entertainment and leisure activities, the European Golf Tour which is expected to attract world renowned golf legends and the Iron Man campaign which is aimed at attracting around 750 professionals and businessmen from across the world.

The Indian Outbound Travel Convention which will be held from October 2-4 in Colombo is expected to bring in around 200 Indian travel professionals to Sri Lanka.