Opening Sri Lanka for Indian travellers

  • Webinar by SLPB with the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai

After much speculation and carefully revised health protocols, Sri Lanka Tourism is taking progressive measures to rejuvenate the tourism sector amidst the current pandemic situation. As an effort to boost tourist arrivals from India, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) organised a virtual awareness session on opening Sri Lanka for Indian travellers. Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai Sandun Sameera was the moderator.

The online session was joined by more than 280 prominent Indian outbound tour operators/travel agents, journalists from reputed newspapers, officials from SriLankan Airlines, and representatives of key tourism associations of Sri Lanka.

Consul General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai Dr. Valsan Vethody made the opening remarks. He highlighted that the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is beginning to see an opportunity to get back on its feet and revive itself due to the accelerated e-vaccination programme. He further mentioned that the Indian Government has considered opening Sri Lanka to Indian travellers as a positive step and invited all the stakeholders in India to join this endeavour.

Representing the Sri Lankan participants, SLTPB Acting Managing Director and Director of PR Madubhani Perera, SLTPB Director of Marketing Dushan Wickramasuriya, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte, Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) Vice President Nishad Wijetunga, and Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET) Past President Mervyn Fernanodupulle also contributed with their respective speeches. The Indian agents were updated on crucial points such as airline connectivity, adhering to health guidelines, travelling within the bio bubble, and arranging accommodation at safe and secure hotels in Sri Lanka.

Perera expressed that India is a very important source market for Sri Lanka. She mentioned that Sri Lanka Tourism has a target of achieving a $ 10 billion income to the country and a total of seven million tourist arrivals by the year 2025, which is a challenging task due to the current pandemic situation impacting global tourism. Sri Lanka Tourism is taking all the necessary steps to achieve this target by 2025 or even to a closer level, with the planned promotional activities, including the global campaign expected to be launched early next year.

Wickramasuriya also made a comprehensive presentation to the audience by highlighting the importance of the tourism industry to Sri Lanka, which has contributed 4-5% to our GDP. The highest number of tourist arrivals were recorded in 2018, amounting to 2.3 million, of which 18% tourists were from India. He also touched upon the importance of niche segments such as wedding tourism, film tourism, and sports tourism as well as the Ramayana Trail, where there are many tourist attractions to be explored by Indian visitors. He further briefed on the health protocols introduced by the health authorities for Indian tourists arriving in Sri Lanka.

Ukwatte explained the preparedness of the Sri Lankan hotel industry to cater to the needs of international travellers in the current environment. He stressed the importance of attracting Indian tourists to Sri Lanka during this period in order to revive the tourism industry.

Wijetunga highlighted that movement of international tourists arranged by local DMCs is not restricted and further explained the protocols followed to ensure a smooth operation by DMCs to ensure a good holiday for all travellers. Fernandopulle also conveyed that all stakeholders of Sri Lanka Tourism and the Sri Lanka missions are working tirelessly to revive the industry that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also speaking at the webinar, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) Vice President Jay Bhatia expressed that they are willing to promote Sri Lanka further and requested to organise fam tours to Sri Lanka to raise the interest among tour operators. Furthermore, he is of the view that the Sri Lanka Tourism strategy should focus more on tourists who have already been to Sri Lanka rather than trying to acquire new tourists, considering the uncertainty of the present times.

Sharing similar views, Travel Agents’ Federation of India (TAFI) President Ajay Prakash requested to promote non-traditional aspects of Sri Lanka such as culture, architecture, adventure tourism, etc.

The occasion concluded with an active and well-participated Q&A session where the Indian tour operators had many queries regarding the connectivity, travel details related to Sri Lanka, and the “Buy One – Get One Free” promotion. SriLankan Airlines Manager – Western Region of India Ruwan Wijekoon explained the promotions initiated by SriLankan Airlines to attract Indian tourists to Sri Lanka. The vote of thanks was delivered by Shirani Herath of SLTPB.