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Boosting Lanka’s tourism with innovative attractions

Since the end of a three decade war in 2009 Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals have boomed reaching over 1.5 million last year and attracting earnings of 2.6 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Central Bank.

Sri Lanka's continuing tourism success story,saw arrivals rise 18% in March this year compared to the same period last year, latest data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) showed.

The month recorded 157,051 tourists arriving in the country compared to the 133,048 in March 2014.In the first three months of this year 478,838 tourists visited the island, an increase of 13.6 percent compared to the 421,501 recorded for the same period in 2014.

Arrivals from North America rose 24.1 percent to 7,500 in March, arrivals from US were up 27.7 percent,Western Europe too kept their customary growth and arrivals from South Asia increased by 14.8 percent in March 2015.

The tropical island is aiming to attract 2.5 million arrivals by 2016,buoyed by fast increasing numbers from new sources. In February this year, China cemented its place as the second largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka growing by 84.5 percent in March when compared with the previous year. Chinese tourists to the tiny island in the Indian Ocean have risen rapidly over the last two years with 2014 ending at an all-time high.

In 2013 only 54,288 Chinese tourists visited Sri Lanka but the numbers ballooned to 128,166 by the end of last year growing an impressive 136.1 percent, according SLTDA.Such an expansion is aided by large scale investment projects and keen interest shown by China towards Sri Lanka in the recent past.

“With the increased connectivity via Air China operating in the market and the proposed charter that will also come to play in the near future, this destination has a lot of potential to drive growth but what we are now focusing on is to increase the quality of our traveller, given the global boom of the new young and affluent Chinese travelers wanting to see the world,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau offcial said recently underscoring the importance of innovative destination marketing.

Business travellers that combine large scale conferences and meetings with sightseeing will also be crucial to push Sri Lanka closer to the 3 million arrival mark.

It would also boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that has been stagnant at about 2 billion U.S. dollars for the last several years, despite the end of the war.

Sri Lanka’s booming post-war tourism industry could be boosted by the 1.4 billion U.S. dollar port city project, if implemented properly, as it aims to attract tourists by providing unique experiences on par with international attractions.

Over the past month Port City ramped up advertising about the project insisting it would put a spotlight on Sri Lanka, by positioning the Island as the ultimate “Gateway to South Asia” and strengthen tourist arrivals over the next 30 years through unparalleled experiences to tourists, especially in the business and leisure sectors. It would also be pivotal to create new employment opportunities.

The new land off Colombo’s harbour will include hotels, shopping malls, and other attractions at the heart of the central business district of Colombo and could be important in expanding Sri Lanka’s tourism marketing capacity to new countries and tourist segments in the world. During the 1980’s countries such as Thailand and Malaysia were purposefully moving towards attaining their goal of migrating from a cheap destination to that of a ‘status’ destination, which revolves around providing unique experiences.

The thrust of their efforts were aimed at building infrastructure, attractions and facilities that provoked positive global attention.

In subsequent decades these countries outstripped their Asian competitors in attracting millions of tourists. Perhaps the best example of status driven tourism is Singapore that attracted over 13 million arrivals last year.

“China is willing to continue as a trustworthy and reliable partner of Sri Lanka and its people.

No matter how the situation changes, the two sides should cherish the long standing bilateral friendship, and unswervingly stick to warm bilateral relations,” Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang told local media recently showcasing the continuation of relations between the two countries despite the temporary suspension imposed on the port city project by the government.

Chinese President Xi Jingping ceremoniously flagged off the port city project when he visited the island last September when both countries inked over 20 agreements.

It was also focused on during the recent tour by President Maithripala Sirisena to China when the two countries signed over 1 billion U.S. dollars in grant projects to boost economic wellbeing.

“The time is ripe for concerted action to boost Sri Lanka’s economic and commercial relations with China to a higher level through taking advantage of the trade – investment nexus.

It can be useful in supporting the transition from debt to foreign investment flows which is necessary to strengthen Sri Lanka’s growth model,” observed local think tank Pathfinder Foundation in its latest economic evaluation report. “We look forward to seeing the Port City Reclamation project in Colombo through to its successful completion, as it will remain in the history of Sri Lanka as the most iconic and biggest milestone made,” the port city project company assures highlighting the project benefits to dynamically position Sri Lanka in the world market.

Sri Lanka’s booming post-war tourism industry could be boosted by the US$ 1.4 billion port city project, if implemented properly, as it aims to attract tourists by providing unique experiences on par with international attractions.

(DN - 23042015)

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