India’s leading trade show on business, MICE and luxury travel, the Business & Luxury Travel Mart was held at The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel in New Delhi last week. Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga was the chief guest at the inauguration of the show.
Speaking at the inauguration Minister Amaratunga said that there was a noticeable increase in the business and luxury segment of visitors arriving from India. “Business and luxury travel to Sri Lanka is a new trend that is catching on and affluent Indian visitors comprise a large share of the volume that is driving this segment. They include celebrities like Bollywood stars who spend their vacations in Sri Lanka, business personalities looking for indulgence, and also the upper middle class tourists who wouldn’t mind spending a little extra on memorable experiences. Sri Lanka’s participation at this fair through the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau is to make further inroads in the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions category which today accounts for around 15 percent of visitors to the island,” he said.
The Sri Lanka pavilion was located at the entrance of the convention center and took prominence amongst other participating countries and organizations. Ten companies from Sri Lanka participated at the travel mart and had over 250 pre-booked appointments. The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) had over 40 successful meetings with key industry players. Buyers were presented with SLCB branded lap top bags and SLCB sponsored a luncheon for the participants on the 18th of January. SLCB in association with SriLankan Airlines made a presentation on MICE opportunities and facilities available in Sri Lanka. SriLankan Airlines has 125 direct flights per week to 13 destinations in India.
Minister Amaratunga met with the media and highlighted the special relationship between India and Sri Lanka. He explained the significance of the Ramayana Trail, special places of interest that both Sri Lankans & Indians visit, the expansion of tourism related business relations and the opportunities for Indian companies to invest in designated tourism areas working closely with the BOI. He also emphasized the importance of leveraging the opportunities available as a result of the free trade agreement between the two nations.
“As per the latest tourism data, nearly 20 percent of all tourists that came to Sri Lanka last year originated from India. In terms of numbers, 424,887 Indians visited Sri Lanka in 2018. This is the highest ever number of Indian nationals to have visited Sri Lanka in a calendar year. This year we hope to target one million Indian tourists. We are aware that India will become the world’s second largest economy within the next decade. We are also aware that India has the single largest population of young people in the world. At present half of India’s population is under 25 years old. As much as this offers huge potential for tourism it also requires special understanding of the products needed to attract the young, affluent travellers,” Amaratunga said.
Minister Amaratunga was accompanied by Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India, Austin Fernando, Senior Advisor to the Minister Felix Rodrigo, Chairman Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, Kumar De Silva and Chairman, CEO of Fairest Media, India, the organizers of the event.