By Charumini de Silva
Sri Lanka expects a major tourism boost from the first-ever carbon-neutral ‘Ashara Mubaraka’, a 10-day spiritual convention drawing 21,000 religious visitors from 40 countries from next week, with an expected revenue of $ 31 million.
This is the first major international convention the island nation is hosting after the 21 April Easter Sunday attacks, and was initiated by the Tourism Development Ministry as well as the Bohra community in the country, to boost the image and to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is safe for travel.
Sri Lanka last played host to Ashara Mubaraka in 2009. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, along with thousands of devout Muslims from around the world,gather every year in a 10-day long period that sees the community mourn the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain.
The global convention this year, titled ‘We Believe in Sri Lanka’, aims at zero food and plastic waste, making it the first carbon-neutral religious commemoration held at the Dawoodi Bohra Masjid in Marine Drive, Colombo 4.
In addition, the Dawoodi Bohra community desires to take on the memories of the natural beauty of the island nation, and become a global tourism ambassador for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Tourism expects visitors from 28 August to 12 September, while noting that 3,000 rooms in 100 hotels from Negombo to Mt.Lavinia have already been booked for the convention. In addition, 200 apartments in Colombo have been reserved for accommodation.
“Sri Lanka is all set to host the first-ever carbon-neutral ‘Ashara Mubaraka’ next month. Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the spiritual leader of the international Dawoodi Bohra community, will visit the country on the invitation of the President, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to participate in this 10-day convention in Colombo,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Consultant/Director and Head of Tourism Relief Facilitation Unit Kavinda Makalanda told the Daily FT.
Sri Lanka Tourism expects visitors from Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, the UK, the US, Yemen and Zambia.
Noting that this spiritual convention will give a major boost to hotels and other sectors related to tourism, he said they expect revenue during the 10 days will top over $31 million or Rs.5.6 billion, as they calculate an average spending of a person to be around $1,500.
He also said that 50,000 meals will be freshly cooked twice a day, and over the 10-day period, a total of 600,000 fresh meals.
Makalanda said the Tourism Development Ministry expended a lot of effort to win the opportunity for the convention to be held in Sri Lanka, particularly after the Easter Sunday terror attacks.
“This is a significant opportunity for the tourism sector in particular, as well as for the entire economy, to recover from the 21 April Easter Sunday setback,” he added.
Makalanda assured that the Tourism Development Ministry was coordinating all facilities along with all other institutions,including the Defence Ministry, Sri Lanka Police, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Immigration and Emigration Department, Sri Lanka Customs, Airport Aviation Ltd., Urban Development Authority, Health Ministry, Disaster Management Ministry, Colombo Municipal Council, Central Environmental Authority and Transport Ministry, to ensure all logistics were in place for the convention.
Accordingly, 3,000 local and foreign volunteers will also participate at the 10day convention.