By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka Tourism is now on the lookout to increase foreigners stopping over for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) to 41% from the total business travellers by 2016, from the existing 18%, according to 2010 statistics.
Tourism officials yesterday asserted that MICE tourism is a key development area for the industry and has lured in 70,000 tourists within 2010. This number is expected to rise to 80,000 by the end of the year.
General Manager Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Vipula Wanigasekera noted that the MICE category, which takes a 12% share from the overall tourists coming in, has brought in a revenue of Rs. 41.85 million in 2010. Within the current year the revenue is expected to rise to Rs. 50 million.
“Sri Lanka is a popular destination for corporate meetings,” Wanigasekera said. “Between 2007 and now, there have been over 250 Indian corporate meetings happening in Sri Lanka. The destination is a cost-effective, international travel for them.” March, which was dedicated to MICE tourism under the themed monthly tourism promotion, will host the 23rd joint meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific on Thursday. The meeting is set to attract top-notch businessmen, government personalities and tourism industrialists from 154 countries. Following this, Sri Lanka will welcome some 550 obstetricians and gynaecologists at the eighth South Asia Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (SAFOG) conference from 22-24 April.
Themed as ‘New Horizons in Reproductive Health for South Asia,’ the conference will bring in specialist doctors from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives and Bhutan. Sri Lanka also managed to win the bid to hold the next Public Health Conference in 2012 in the country, Wanigasekera said.
The development of the sector is a vital one and the Government’s interest in the sector is steadily growing, he said. According to Wanigasekera, after discussions with the Treasury, the Government has announced interest in building a multipurpose convention facility within the next two years.
He stated that the location for the hall has been currently identified in Peliyagoda on a 200-acre land. “This is the first time we received such positivism from the authority. The Treasury was also keen to build a multipurpose shopping mall and a theme park along with the conference hall,” he said. The proposal for the hall will be handed over today.
Another conference and exhibition hall will be added to the local map from Araly, located approximately 10 km from the Jaffna City and another in Hambantota. The Hambantota complex will be built to accommodate 1,600 people and the exhibition centre could host an exhibition with 100 stalls, President of the Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference and Exhibition and event Organisation (SLAPCEO) Imran Hassan said. The complex in Hambantota will be smaller than the BMICH complex, he added.
Hassan noted that infrastructure must be built to accommodate the targeted promotions for MICE tourism. Currently Sri Lankan hotels can accommodate a 750 delegation conference at any given time and 80 exhibition stalls in hotels.
“Furthermore, the existing facility at BMICH can accommodate a delegation of 1,500, Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre can accommodate 250 stalls and the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre can accommodate 210 stalls,” he said.