Sri Lanka can be pendent in the necklace: Tourism officials

Feb 11, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is a market on the verge of taking off as tourist hot spot and the island should try to lure more brands into the country, a senior industry official said.

“Sri Lanka is the pendent in the necklace, you have unique location right in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” Dilip Puri, Managing Director India and regional VP south Asia, Starwood Hotels and resorts said.

“Bringing in more branded hotels into the country will automatically increase the desirability of the country and create a suitable environment to reach an upper-end market.”

He was speaking at the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) 2016 organised by HVS, a hospitality consulting firm which kicked off in Colombo, Wednesday.

India’s Oberoi hotels also endorsed this by stressing on the islands location and said that they are keen to come back after quitting the island during a 30 year war.

“We would love to partner with locals and are open to equity partnerships, management contracts and even buying out owners,” Kapil Chopra, President of the Oberoi Group which built and operated the “Lanka Oberoi” in the 1970s said.

“Real estate valuations here are a fraction of what they are in India and visitors are staying here for between a week to 10 days. This makes it a very attractive market.”

According to latest data Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals were up 24.3 percent to 194,280 in January 2016 from a year ago with arrivals from India growing 26 percent to 28,895 while Chinese visitors rose 122 percent to 26,083.

The conference represents a mix of fourteen countries out of the total of 170 participants.

Data presented by speakers show Sri Lanka target 4.2 million tourist arrivals by 2020 which would bring in around 200 new hotels and an addition of 11,000 rooms to the hotel industry.

Key note speaker at the event Minister of Tourism Development John Amarathunga said that by the year 2020 the tourism sector will be employ over 640, 000 persons with the Gross Domestic Product contribution expected to also rise.

“Total contribution of travel tourism to the country’s GDP is forecasted to elevate itself by 6.1 percent to 10.5 percent of GDP by the year 2026.”

Tourism contribution to GDP in 2014 was close to an average of 2 percent (1.7 percent in 2012 and 2.5 percent in 2013) while some of Sri Lanka’s Asian competitors are at a much higher level of tourism sector contribution to GDP, for example, Malaysia – 12.5 percent,  Vietnam – 7.5 percent and Singapore  5 percent.

There is also a growing demand for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) tourism, an official said.

“There is a growing base demand for MICE tourism,” Manav Thadani, Chairman, HVS MRICS, said.

“Sri Lanka is known as a leisure destination and around 86 percent of the tourists arriving being leisure bound, however it is business travel which is around 13 percent that shows a growing trend.”