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United Federation of Travel Agents Association lends a hand to help boost Sri Lankan tourism


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 Tourism Development, Wild Life and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga and Universal Federation of Travel Agents Association President Sunil Kumar shake hands after the press conference in Colombo. Others (from left): Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Managing Director Johanne Jayaratne, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Tourism Development Authority Chairman Kishu Gomes, and Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL) President Trevor Rajaratnam – Pic by Ruwan Walpola

 

  • One of world’s largest agents and tour operators come forward to partner Sri Lanka Tourism to hold a number of events in Colombo to consolidate tourism revival post Easter Sunday terror attacks

 

By Charumini de Silva

In a move of solidarity, the United Federation of Travel Agents Association (UFTAA), one of the world’s largest agents and tour operators, has come forward to partner with Sri Lanka Tourism to hold a number of events in Colombo to consolidate the revival of the tourism industry post Easter Sunday terror attacks.

The UFTAA will hold two of its major events, including the Board of Directors Meeting and Mid-Year Forum, here in Sri Lanka by end of June or early July. In addition, with regular engagements, UFTAA will help Sri Lanka to disseminate accurate information to the global travel industry.

Addressing a media briefing to announce the new partnership on Friday, Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga insisted that Sri Lanka needs the support of the global tourism industry to get the country back to where it was.

“I welcome the new initiative between UFTAA and Sri Lanka Tourism for coming on board to consolidate the fast revival of our tourism industry. I am thankful to UFTAA for helping us to disseminate accurate information to the global travel industry and urge UFTAA to take the message to the global travel community that Sri Lanka has taken all possible steps to ensure the security of visitors and is now open for business,” he stressed.

Noting that the Sri Lankan people and the tourism industry have endured darker days in the past, Amaratunga said the country has been very resilient and chances are that Sri Lanka will bounce back with greater vigour in the next few months.“We still have seven months ahead of us to capitalise on the global accolade that was bestowed upon us by the Lonely Planet as the top destination to visit in 2019. This is our strength and we will show the world that Sri Lanka will once again be the top destination to visit in the next few months,” a confident Minister said.

UFTAA President Sunil Kumar said they were delighted to be partnered with Sri Lanka Tourism to hold their immediate events in Sri Lanka, noting such situations demand support from global associations to promote the country as a safe destination for tourism.

“In the larger interest of Sri Lanka, there was a proposal to advance our next immediate events by a couple of months, so it could serve as a great redresses to the whole world that global tourism leaders are present here in Sri Lanka,” he added.

He pointed out that Trevor Rajaratnam, who is a representative of the Board of UFTAA from Sri Lanka and who’s also the President of Travel Agent’s Association of Sri Lanka (TAAS), urged on a lot of visibility of Sri Lanka Tourism.

“We just finished our Annual General Meeting on 26 and 27 March in Turkey. The need for us to do a mid-year meeting has emerged from the fact that the Sri Lankan association has requested the world to be present here,” he said.

Kumar also said UFTAA has been very successful in promoting tourism to different countries in the world. “UFTAA’s role in similar situations is well-known. In 2016, when Turkey went through a local challenge, UFTAA rose to the occasion and managed to get over 30 country representatives to Istanbul. Several media leaders on the invitation of UFTAA, too, joined the effort and there was pronounced visibility that Istanbul, Turkey was safe for tourism,” he added.He said they intend to offer assistance to leverage the official UFTAA website – www.uftaa.org – to disseminate credible information of and special offers in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and Sri Lanka Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes expressed gratitude for UFTAA for showing their solidarity and holding its events in Colombo.

“The presence of UFTAA will help Sri Lanka to take a strong message to the world in terms of the security environment in the country. We are ready again to very warmly welcome and delight the global tourists,” he added.

TAASL President Rajaratnam said global delegates coming here will assist in making Sri Lanka’s visibility global and reach all spheres. 

“The UFFTAA pledged to support Sri Lanka. Usually, the Mid-Year Forum is scheduled for August, but we are trying to fast track it to have it in June or early July,” he added.

According to him, national carrier SriLankan Airlines as well as Board of Airlines have also pledged to facilitate the UFTAA Mid-Year Forum in Sri Lanka by offering concessionary rebated travel for delegates to come to Sri Lanka. He was confident the hoteliers will also get together in offering equal facilities for the members.

The Minister commended the TAASL for initiating a dialogue with UFTAA. “Through the combined efforts of Sri Lanka Tourism, UFTAA and TAASL, I am quite confident that the message can be sent around the world that Sri Lanka is back in business while being better prepared to face any unfortunate situation,” he said.

Amaratunga pointed out that it was important now to help those affected to get back on their feet, restore the damaged places, and strengthen security at all public places.

“Many Sri Lankans from various walks of life who are stakeholders of the tourism industry have been affected by the Easter Sunday terror attacks. Tourism is a strategically critical sector in Sri Lanka’s expanding economy. It is now the third highest revenue generator for the country and is estimated that over 500,000 individuals depend on it, which translates into two million people getting affected throughout the country, considering a dependency of four family members per employee. Thus, we need to provide relief to those who are facing economic hardship,” the Minister insisted. 

 


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