Some of the Chinese travel agents and media personnel with Tourism Development, Wild Life and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga with Beijing Spring Travel International MD Yang Yang, Walkers Tours CEO Nalaka Amaratunga and SLTPB Director Marketing Madubhani Perera – Pic by Sameera Wijesinghe
- Over 100 Chinese travel agents arrive for week-long fact finding, tourism sites visit
- Biggest tour group to visit post-Easter Sunday setback
- Walkers Tours takes up challenge with Beijing Spring Travel International, pledges to continue attracting more tourists
- Minister expresses optimism of attracting more Chinese tourists with free visa on arrival program, believes reduced airport taxes will attract more airlines
- Special ceremony in August to mark the 1,600th anniversary of itinerant Chinese Buddhist monk Ven. Fa-Hien’s visit
Over 100 Chinese travel agents arrived yesterday, becoming the largest group post-Easter Sunday attacks to help revive tourism in Sri Lanka.
The group was brought down by Walkers Tours, the destination management arm of the leisure sector of premier blue chip company John Keells Group in partnership with Beijing Spring Travel International Co. Ltd. The initiative was an outcome of the promotion SLTPB had in Beijing, China in June.
The group consists of 107 Chinese travel agents and 12 media personnel from Beijing as well as from other parts of China and will explore Sri Lanka in a span of one week in four different groups visiting all key tourist attractions.
“This visit by the large group emphasises the fact that the tourist arrivals are gradually increasing in Sri Lanka and is indeed a good sign for the travel and tourism industry. We hope to achieve our set tourist arrival target of 2 to 2.5 million by the end of the year,” Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga told journalists in Colombo yesterday.
Assuring that the country was absolutely safe for travel, he said that the diversity Sri Lanka has to offer will enchant more Chinese travellers to come in the near future.
The Minister also called on the Chinese media to provide the maximum publicity on the destination at this hour of need to boost tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
With Sri Lanka ready to launch free visa on arrival for 43 countries including China from 1 August, the Minister believes it will also help more Chinese travellers to visit the country.
“We have got Cabinet approval for free visa on arrival and we have also reduced a number of airport taxes to facilitate more direct international and charter flights to operate.
With more connectivity and visa fee exemption initiatives, there will be an increased number of Chinese tourists coming to Sri Lanka,” Amaratunga added.
The Minister also said the Government would introduce a tracking system to ensure that no “undesirable people” would enter the country under the new visa scheme.
“We are in the process of developing a separate platform in order to ensure that no unwanted people make use of this opportunity and create problems in Sri Lanka,” he added.
John Keells Group Destination Management Sector CEO Nalaka Amaratunga said this visit would be a great kick-start to revive the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
“This whole initiative started when we met in Beijing during five weeks ago. Spring Travel has been a strategic partner of us for the last eight years and they are part of a large conglomerate like us and they also own Spring Airlines, where they have 96 aircraft. They have already shown their commitment to promote Sri Lanka tourism and we are hopeful that this initiative will continue,” he added.
Although there is a slight hiccough with connectivity issue with few Chinese airlines pulling out of Sri Lanka, Amaratunga said they were hopeful that the airlines will recommence operations by September.
Beijing Spring Travel International Managing Director Yang Yang pledged their fullest corporation to promote Sri Lanka in a massive scale among Chinese travellers.
Whilst urging the Chinese media personnel to narrate their first-hand experiential stories in Sri Lanka in China, Yang believes this initiative will help Sri Lanka to go to next heights in travel sector.
SLTPB Director Marketing Madubhani Perera said they have planned a number of promotions initiatives in China this year.
According to her over 265,000 Chinese visited Sri Lanka in 2018 and with the Easter Sunday setback, they hope to at least attract 50% of last year›s total by the end of 2019.
“We already had a successful promotion in China and there are many lined up for this year. A CCTV crew will arrive in Sri Lanka next week to provide publicity on the security, stability and tourism in Sri Lanka,” Perera added.
She also said a special ceremony to mark the 1,600th anniversary of the itinerant Chinese Buddhist monk Ven. Fa-Hien›s (also known as Faxian) visit to Sri Lanka will be held on 28 August at the BMICH in collaboration with the Cultural Affairs Ministry.