2 Million tourists thanks to SriLankan Airlines’ codeshare partnerships

Jan 10, Colombo: The smooth functioning of SriLankan Airlines’ codeshare partnerships in the Western and Central European region contributed in a significant manner to the growth of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in 2016, which expanded by 14% and crossed the 2 million milestone.

SriLankan made a significant change in strategy in the fourth quarter of 2016 by expanding services to the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia which included the launch of 11 new destinations and the increase of frequencies to existing destinations, while suspending services on three loss-making European routes. The changes resulted in SriLankan expanding its global route network to 101 destinations in 47 countries. It is also now the largest foreign carrier into India where it serves 11 cities with over 100 frequencies, as well as being the largest airline operating to both Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

SriLankan arranged efficient codeshare agreements with its partner airlines to carry passengers to Colombo from much of Europe, as it suspended services to Paris, Frankfurt and Rome in November 2016. Significantly, each of these tourism markets recorded significant increases in growth of tourists to Sri Lanka and growth was not affected by the suspension of direct air services, due to the convenient codeshare services offered by SriLankan’s partner airlines. Arrivals from Germany for December 2016 totaled 11,994, an increase of 5.9% over December 2015; and arrivals from France in December 2016 totaled 7,061, an 11.5% increase over the 7,871 of December 2015.

SriLankan has codeshare arrangements with many airlines around the world, which provide air services that strengthen the national carrier’s global network and help market Sri Lanka as a tourism destination.

Western and Central Europe was the largest tourism generating region to Sri Lanka in 2016 by contributing 643,333 visitors, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, with a 16.5% growth over 2015. This was even more than South Asia (513,536) and East Asia (425,161), despite those two regions having the two single largest tourist market countries – India and China.

Western and Central Europe’s contribution came mainly from the United Kingdom (188,159), Germany (133,275) and France (96,440), but significant numbers of tourists also came from the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Austria, Belgium and Norway, each of which generated more than 10,000 visitors. Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Poland, although classified by the SLTDA as Eastern European countries, also made significant contributions totaling a further 161,171 tourists.


Sri Lanka targets 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2017

Jan 07, Colombo: Despite the impediment due to the partial closure of the international airport during the first quarter and withdrawal of the national carrier from key markets, Sri Lanka has set a target of 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2017.

John Amaratunga Minister of Tourism

Tourism Development, Land and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga at a media briefing yesterday said Sri Lanka, hoping to attract 2.5 million tourists this year, will launch long-delayed Rs. 800 million international tourism promotions campaign in June this year.

He said the partial closure of the international airport from Jan 6- April 6, during the peak tourism season, for the renovation of its runway is a tremendous setback but expressed hope that the tourism promotions campaign and word of mouth of tourists who visited the country in 2016 would help to achieve the target.

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals in 2016 rose 14.0 percent from the year before with the arrival of 2,050,832 tourists although lower than the target of 2.2 million for the year.

Minister Amaratunga said the number was the highest ever. While it bodes well for the industry the numbers were far below that of competing destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, which draw 25-30 million tourists annually, the Minister said.

Earnings from tourism increased to US$ 3.5 billion in 2016 from US$ 2.8 billion in 2015, the Minister said.


Sri Lankan villagers protest over Chinese investment

Several people have been injured in southern Sri Lanka during a protest against allowing China to build a port and industrial zone.
The plan envisages the eviction of thousands of villagers around Hambantota port, 240km (150 miles) south-east of the capital Colombo. Police used tear gas as the protest delayed a ceremony being attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe.
Opponents say the area is being turned into what they call a Chinese colony.

The government is finalising a 99-year lease of the port area to a company that is 80% Chinese-owned.
A nearby area will be used for an industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories.

The government says local people will be given new land.
The port development is the latest in a series of major investments by China in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure.

China has pumped millions of dollars into Sri Lanka’s infrastructure since the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009.

China’s so-called string of pearls strategy – an attempt to expand its influence in South Asia – is controversial – and watched with particular suspicion by its regional rival, India, says the BBC’s Jill McGivering.

The investment is part of its bold ambition to engineer a “Maritime Silk Route” to oil-rich parts of the Middle East, and onwards to Europe, our South Asia analyst says.


Sri Lanka launches special industrial zone to attract Chinese industries

Jan 07, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe accompanied by the Ambassador of China to Colombo Yi Xianliang Saturday launching the Southern Development Project inaugurated a special industrial zone in Hambantota amid protests by joint opposition politicians and Buddhist monks.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe says the Sri Lanka – China Logistics and Industrial Zone (SLCLIZ) to be set up within the ‘Ruhunu Economic Development Area’ in Hambantota is launched to attract Chinese investments to establish new industries surrounding the Chinese-built Hambanthota Port in a move to create more job opportunities and ways of income for the people in the Southern areas and develop the area.

At the ceremony held this morning in Mirijjawila, the Prime Minister said the two major political parties and many other minor parties joined together to form the good governance rule in order to create better living standards for the people in the country. He said the government is committed to achieve this goal and will provide job opportunities to the youth in the island.

Under the project many factories and investments will be started in the Hambanthota and Monaragala districts. The Project will generate thousands of jobs and bring in about $5 billion in Chinese investment, the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said creating the special area for Chinese investors was aimed at making the debt-burdened Hambantota port viable and the idling Port and the Mattala Airport built with the Chinese loans will become profitable ventures with the success of the massive development program.

“The Hambantota port was going to sink us (Sri Lanka), but we are now trying to leverage it to create new economic activity and boost growth,” Wickremesinghe said.

Chinese ambassador Yi said the zone could generate up to 100,000 jobs and benefit the residents of Hambantota as well as the rest of the island.

“In the next two to five years, if everything is OK, there will be about $5 billion of (Chinese) investments in this zone,” Yi said adding that 100,000 new jobs were envisaged.

The government has been trying to renegotiate the terms of its $8-billion Chinese debt, which includes the construction costs of the Hambantota port as well as the Mattala International Airport which is used by only one airline, AFP reported.

The government has signed a framework agreement last month regarding the port with China Merchant Holdings and the Concessionary agreement is expected to be signed this month.

According to the agreement, 80 per cent of shares of the Port of Hambantota will be given to the Chinese company for USD 1.12 billion. The rest will be held by the Sri Lanka Port Authority.

The government also plan to set up a nearby industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories. It is also expected to immediately sign a few other agreements to commence Cement manufacturing plants, LNG Plants, Oil refineries, and Dockyards within the land extent of 1,200 acres owned by the port of Hambantota with an investment of approximately USD 4 billion.

However, the villagers and monks led by the Joint Opposition politicians are opposed to the government’s initiative claiming that the government will hand over their residential and farmlands to the Chinese.

The government has assured that the land that will be given for Chinese investments is mostly uninhabited state land and only 5 percent of private land will be acquired after paying compensation to the owners.

In addition, a Special Economic Zone covering Monaragala, Embilipitiya, Matara and, Hambantota areas will also be established with the support of the Government of China. This will be implemented under three phases in a land extent of 15,000 acres. Around 2,400 factories which generate nearly 400,000 direct and indirect job opportunities, especially for the younger generation are also expected to be established in this area within six years, the government says.

Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrema says that not only the Hambantota Port, the government would also develop the Trincomalee Port with investment from Indian and Japanese companies.


WHO certifies Sri Lanka malaria-free

In a remarkable public health achievement, Sri Lanka has been certified as malaria-free island country by World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday.

“Sri Lanka’s achievement is truly remarkable. In the mid-20th century it was among the most malaria-affected countries, but now it is malaria-free. This is testament to the courage and vision of its leaders, and signifies the great leaps that can be made when targeted action is taken. It also demonstrates the importance of grass-roots community engagement and a whole-of-society approach when it comes to making dramatic public health gains,” WHO Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said here.

Sri Lanka’s road to eliminating the mosquitoes was tough, and demanded well-calibrated, responsive policies.

After malaria cases soared in the 1970s and 80s, the country’s anti-malaria campaign in the 1990s adjusted its strategy to intensively target the parasite in addition to targeting the mosquito.

The change in strategy was unorthodox, but highly effective.

Mobile malaria clinics in high transmission areas meant that prompt and effective treatment could reduce the parasite reservoir and the possibility of further transmission. Effective surveillance, community engagement and health education, meanwhile, enhanced the ability of authorities to respond, and mobilised popular support for the campaign.

The adaptation and flexibility of strategies and support from key partners such as WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fast-tracked success.

By 2006, the country recorded less than 1 000 cases of malaria per year, and since October 2012, the indigenous cases were down to zero. For the past three-and-a-half years, no locally transmitted cases have been recorded.

To maintain elimination and ensure the parasite is not reintroduced to the country, the anti-malaria campaign is working closely with local authorities and international partners to maintain surveillance and response capacity and to screen high-risk populations entering the country.

Sri Lanka is the second country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate malaria after Maldives. The announcement of Sri Lanka’s victory over malaria was made at the WHO South-East Asia Region’s annual Regional Committee meeting in the presence of health ministers and senior health officials from all 11 Member States.

The Regional Director said WHO will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lanka’s health authorities as they relate to malaria, as well as the country’s wider public health mission. This outstanding achievement should be a springboard to further public health gains in the country and the South-East Asia Region as a whole.


President Maithripala opens Facets 2016 Gem and Jewellery Exhibition

Sept 01, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today inaugurated the International Gem and Jewellery Exhibition “Facets Sri Lanka 2016”, organized by the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Association (SLGJA) for the 26th successive time.

Leading institutions in the field of gem and jewelry in the country are taking part in the exhibition, which will be held till 4th September at the BMICH Exhibition and Convention Centre in Colombo.


The President also visited the stalls and held cordial discussions with the staff.
Held annually in Colombo since 1991 with state and private sector patronage, FACETS 2016 will have hundreds of local and foreign exhibitors showcasing their gem and Jewellery products and a large number of influential trade visitors from around the world.

Minister A. H. M. Fowzie and the Chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Association also participated at this event.


Tourist arrivals up by 19 percent in July 2016 Sri Lanka Tourism Board

Aug 05, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals increased by 19.1 percent in July this year compared to the same period last year exceeding one million tourists arrivals so far this year.

The data released today by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) showed the month recording 209,351 tourist arrivals to the country compared to the 175,804 arrived in July 2015.


In the first seven months of this year 1,173,618 tourists visited the island compared to the 1,005,855 visited in the corresponding period of 2015, recording an increase of 16.7 percent.
Tourist arrivals from North America increased by 25.6 percent to 10,249 in July while 77,862 people visited from Western Europe registering a 20 percent increase in arrivals during the month. Most of the tourists came from UK (23,948), Germany (10,971) and France (10,949).

Reversing the 10 percent decline observed last month, arrivals from Eastern Europe increased by 1.3 percent with the arrival of 7,472 tourists in July 2015. However, tourist arrivals from Russia and Ukraine continued to decline with the arrivals from Russia down by 9.7 percent and from Ukraine by 25 percent. Arrivals from Czech Republic increased by 17.5 percent.

Tourist arrivals from Middle East rose by 15.8 percent with the arrival of 18,591 visitors.

Tourist arrivals from East Asia increased 20.6 percent as 42,890 visited the country while arrivals from China increased 21.9 percent with 30,631 tourists arriving in the country in July 2016.

Arrivals from South Asia in the month increased by 17.1 percent with 42,568 tourists visiting the island. Of those arrived from South Asia, 27,665 were from India corresponding to an increase of 12.1 percent.

Nearly 1.8 million tourists arrived in Sri Lanka last year contributing US$ 2.98 billion of earnings to the government revenues in 2015 compared to US$ 2.43 billion recorded during 2014.

Cumulative earnings from tourism increased to US$ 1.402 billion during the first five months of 2016 compared to US$ 1.184 billion recorded during the same period in 2015.


Thai Travel agent announces trips to undiscovered Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka

With the area now peaceful and returning to normal, Khiri Travel says the time is right to start sharing the historical, cultural and culinary attractions of the area with guests who will travel by train, bicycle, jeep and catamaran.

BANGKOK – Khiri Travel has launched pioneering 4-day/3-night trips to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. The groundbreaking travel experiences are now available in an area still healing its wounds after a civil war that lasted until 2009.

With the area now peaceful and returning to normal, Khiri Travel says the time is right to start sharing the historical, cultural and culinary attractions of the area with guests who will travel by train, bicycle, jeep and catamaran.

Visitors can now easily combine Jaffna peninsula with existing mainstream tourism sites in Sri Lanka, as the Queen of Jaffna train departs from Anuradhapura in the country’s ‘Cultural Triangle,’ which is well known to tourists.

“Our aim is to share the wonderful seafood, curry, architecture, beaches and friendliness of the Jaffna people with guests who share a passion for discovery,” says Khiri Travel Sri Lanka General Manager Gonzalo Gil Lavedra, who inspected the area and created the trip.

“We are providing an itinerary that is not only groundbreaking in terms of the destination and experience, but has been designed with the people of Jaffna in mind,” he says.

On the first day, guests travel three hours by train from Anuradhapura to Jaffna, passing the dry landscape of the Vavuniya dotted with the occasional village. Much of the conflict took place here. In Jaffna town centre, guests stay in a new four-star hotel. After a delicious Tamil lunch, visitors ride bicycles to see a fort, churches, parks, temples, statue of the last king of Jaffna, the last king’s minister’s house, and more.

On the 2nd day guests wear a shalve or veddi to enter the Nallur Hindu temple where they receive a cultural history orientation and can try some Hatha Yoga moves. The guide will elaborate on Jaffna’s culture, the scars of war, similarities and differences with South Indian culture, and the considerable effects of migration and exile on the Jaffna region. After a lavish prawn curry lunch served on a banana leaf, guests visit temples and local attractions, with plenty of time to relax on Casuarina Beach.

The 3rd day includes a 24-hour round trip by catamaran to Delft Island, an hour offshore from Jaffna. The island features exquisite beaches, wild horses, a huge baobab tree, a Dutch fort, pigeon cage, coral structures and more. A special seafood lunch will be prepared by a local family. Guests overnight in a private cabin on the catamaran.

“If there is a place in Sri Lanka that has remained hidden, it is Delft island,” says Gil Lavedra. “With its unique people, coral walls, fort, feral horses, food, temples and lovely beaches, I could go on and on. But the best way is for the clients to see it for themselves.”

On day 4, guests enjoy breakfast on board the catamaran and take a last dip in the sea at Delft before sailing back to Jaffna. Guests arrive in Jaffna around midday for lunch. In the afternoon they continue their onward Sri Lankan itinerary, which can include, for example, the newly accessible attractions of Trincomalee in northeast Sri Lanka, famed for its beaches and surf.

No special visas or permissions are needed to visit the Jaffna peninsula. “The area is perfectly safe,” says Gil Lavedra. “The time is right for tour operators to add Jaffna to their Sri Lanka itineraries.”


Sacred Buddhist Relics from Taxila Pakistan exhibited in Ampara

June 13, Colombo: The Most Sacred Relics of Lord Buddha from Pakistan will be exhibited in Mangalagiri Rajamaha Viharaya, Ampara, for two days from June 14-15, 2016, Pakistan High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.

The sacred relics include two holy bone relics of the Buddha, a golden casket containing the relics and a stone reliquary in stupa shape. These holy relics are part of collection from Taxila Museum of Pakistan, which is located at one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia.


The land of Gandhara where the celebrated faith evolved is more or less a triangle about 100 kilometers across east to west and 70 kilometers from north to south, on the west of the Indus River in Pakistan. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains and covers the vast areas of today’s Peshawar valley, the hilly tracts of Swat (Udyana), Buner and the Taxila valley.

The name ‘Gandhara’ is found for the first time in the Rig-Veda, the sacred ancient hymns of the Hindus. The name also appears in some Persian inscriptions, particularly in the Behistun inscription (528-486 B.C) and in the inscription discovered from the ruins of the Susa Palace in Persia (An archeological site belonging to 6th century B.C).

The Ghandara trail, having its capital and cultural hub at the present day Taxilla, was part of the silk route and many Buddhist pilgrims from different countries used to visit these sites on this historical route.

The Sri Lankan public is invited to come and pay their respects and homage to the most holy relics.


Aitken Spense calls for visitor quotas at wildlife parks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings has called for better government regulations and enforcement to protect the island’s wildlife parks, which are a top tourist attraction.

Sri Lanka’s key competitive advantage lies in its unique diversity of the natural environment and its multiple attractions of nature, history and culture within a small land mass, said Harry Jayawardena, chairman of Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings.

“However, our natural resources are now in danger due to lack of policies and controls, and the possibility of the proverbial ‘killing of the goose that lays the golden egg’ instead of a long-term and sustainable approach.”

Overcrowding at national parks has not only become an eyesore, but also resulted in threats to its inhabitants, he told shareholders in the company’s annual report.

“It is our fervent hope that authorities would introduce and implement strict regulations and a visitor quota to facilitate long-term sustainability of our natural resources as well as the tourism industry.”

It is also vital that policies and regulations are aimed at the long term and remain consistent across regimes, to ensure sustainability of resources as well as investor confidence, Jayawardena said.