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‘One Island – One Big Mall’: First Colombo International Shopping Festival in October


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Ministry Of Tourism Development And Christian Religious Affairs Jhon Amaratunga addressing the press conference, others from left:  SL Tourism Promotion Bureau MD S. Balasubramaniam, Ministry of Tourism Development Additional Secretary Deepthi Fernando, SL Export Development Board Chairperson Indra Malwattte, Ministry of Tourism Development Secretary Esala Weerakoon, SL Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara, SL Airline CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte, SL Retailer’s Association Chairman Hussain Sadique, SL Retailer’s Association Convener, Colombo International Shoppin Festival Chairman Asoka Peiris and Travel Agents Association of SL President Wilhelm E. Brown

By Charumini de Silva

Providing a stepping stone to make Sri Lanka a retail hub and to convert the island to a 365-day destination, Sri Lanka Retailer’s Association (SLRA) will organise the first-ever Colombo International Shopping Festival (CSFI) in collaboration with Tourism Development Ministry and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) during the entire month of October. 

  • Rs. 50m promotion campaign to carve a niche for SL as a new shopping destination
  • Minister considers Festival as an important program in its promotion campaign
  • SLRA aims to uplift the rural, regional and national retail alongside tourism development
  • Festival Convener says many tourists unaware of quality, branded and cheap products of SL, over 5,000 mobile phones a month are going out of country

A brainchild of SLRA, under the tagline of ‘One Island – One Big Mall’ the CSFI is envisaged to become an annual festival, which aims to carve a niche for Sri Lanka as a preferred new shopping destination. With an estimated cost of Rs. 50 million approved by the 2017 Budget, it is expected to attract new segments of tourists, buyers, international brands, suppliers and investors.

Addressing media in Colombo recently SLTPB Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara said that CSFI is one of the initiatives of a regionally based promotion program of the aggressive global campaign as well a part of Sri Lanka Tourism’s action plan 2020 and Vision 2025.

He said the concept of CSFI was a request of SLRA and retail outlets under the umbrella of SLRA will drive this initiative in Colombo to start with, where the anchor event of CSFI will be held from 20 to 22 October at Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC).

According to him, the publicising process will commence on 1 October which will span till 15 November, as television commercials and digital advertising promote Sri Lanka as a shopping hub for South Asia. The television commercials will be aired in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives, while the digital campaign will appear on all platforms from Google search, YouTube, TripAdvisor and all social media channels including Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Marketing in other countries will be with assistance of respective foreign embassies and SriLankan Airlines.

“The National Steering Committee headed by Tourism Development Ministry Secretary decided our international program campaign covering South Asia at a cost of Rs. 45 million. The Tourism Development Ministry initiated this procurement process with the assistance of SLTPB,” he added.

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said the Ministry considers CSFI as an important program in its promotion campaign.

Claiming that he was a bit puzzled when the SLRA decided to hold the festival in October, which is not a seasonal month he added that it coincides with holidays in a few Asian countries which augurs well for shopping during the scheduled period.



Pointing out that the concept of a shopping destination will take a few years to develop, SLRA Chairman Hussain Sadique expressed confidence that CSFI would be a great foundation to make Sri Lanka a preferred destination for shopping in the Indian Ocean .

“CSFI is an event focused on the destination. We felt that there were certain areas that were not tapped by the tourism industry. Therefore, SLRA will give leadership to attract the growing, young, middle-class travellers from around the word and particularly from Asia to make it a point to come to Sri Lanka for shopping,” he added.

If Sri Lanka needs to increase the number of visitors, he said it is imperative to add value while providing pleasant experiences and suggested shopping as a key segment. “We have to focus on category marketing. Shopping is one major component that was neglected for so many years in our tourism. We have better global brands, quality products that are coming straight from factories at competitive prices.”

Noting that the retail segment in the country’s economic pillar is quite small, around one third of the GDP he stressed through CSFI they hope to uplift local brands and entrepreneurship. “What we want is to uplift the rural, regional and national retail alongside tourism. This will help boost the domestic consumption, local brands will get opportunity to grow, it will increase employment opportunities and enhance creativity,” Sadique added.

CSFI Convener Ashoka Peiris acknowledged the launch event as a historical day for Sri Lanka in a step towards becoming a retail hub. 

He pointed out that retail cost in Sri Lanka is about 4% of turnover, compared to 15% in Singapore and said as a result they could offer products at a much competitive price to the Indian sub-continent.

“Many tourists do not know about it. Over 5,000 mobile phones a month are going out of Sri Lanka because the traders are taking them. In Sri Lanka there are no VAT and duties on certain items too. So, instead of going to Singapore and Dubai to buy electronics they will now come to Sri Lanka. We have quality branded clothing, watches; cheaper than in many regional countries, but not much awareness or events in this magnitude took place,” he stated.

Five years down the line Peiris said CSFI will be similar to those in Singapore and Dubai. “I hope tourism and retail will create value and we will be in a position to provide that global experience to our visitors. People in the region will say they are going to Sri Lanka for CSFI.” 

SriLankan Airlines CEO Suren Ratwatte said the airline has the perfect catchment to promote CSFI, with its extensive connectivity in the region. 

“It is a great event to promote tourism in this region. Having the highest number of international flights to India we have an unrivalled network in the Indian sub continent. We are the only real SAARC carrier,” he quipped.

As the national carrier is planning to commence its direct flights to Melbourne from next week and connectivity to other Asian countries Ratwatte said it augurs well to promote the event. 

Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe


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