Sri Lanka Tourism targets top trade fairs to woo travellers

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Key promotional campaigns at IFTM Top Resa in Paris, WTM in London, and ITB in Berlin
  • 16 companies confirm participation at IFTM Top Resa from 5-8 October
  • France changes Sri Lanka’s classification from Red to Orange, allowing fully vaccinated tourists from both countries 
  • Sri Lanka Tourism Chief Kimarli Fernando says resumption of flights from SriLankan Airlines and Air France will be boon for tourism this winter
  • Affirms to address lack of front cabin passengers on French segment to SL

By Charumini de Silva

 Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando


Ahead of the winter season and a one-year break from physical engagement at global trade fairs, Sri Lanka Tourism has set out plans to undertake a series of promotional activities at top travel events in France, the United Kingdom and Germany this year.

The first of the promotional campaigns will be the International French Travel Mart (IFTM) Top Resa, followed by World Travel Mart (WTM) in London and Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) in Berlin.

“The three trade shows we are planning to participate in, which follow a year-long break following the onset of the COVID pandemic, significantly impact tourist destinations globally. We hope that Sri Lanka will be able to participate in all of them to help revive the industry,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando told the Daily FT.

She said that 16 companies have confirmed participation at the IFTM Top Resa – the leading multi-segment trade show for the tourism industry – scheduled from 5-8 October at Paris Porte de Versailles (VIPARIS) in Paris, France.

Aitken Spence Travels, Airwing Tours, Authenticities Ltd., Ayubowan Tours and Travels Ltd., Ceylon Tours, Cinnamon Hotels, Connaissance De Ceylan Ltd., Green Tours & Resort, Kanwel Holidays Ltd., Lanka Holiday Destination Ltd., Lanka Sportreizen, Let’s Travels, Lion Royal Tourisme, Nkar Travels & Tours Ltd., Shanthi Travels and Walkers Tours Ltd., have confirmed participation at the IFTM.

In addition to Fernando, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, a member of the Tourism Advisory Committee and the official handling the France market at Sri Lanka Tourism will all participate at IFTM representing the State sector. 

Around 200 destinations, 1,700 brands, 34,000 tourism professionals and 150 conference sessions have been lined up for this year’s IFTM. 

Fernando pointed out that France was one of the first countries to permit travel to Sri Lanka, in early August, adding that she hopes French travellers will return to their “favourite tropical destination” this winter. 

“Sri Lanka’s classification changed from Red to Orange in France last month. This means that fully vaccinated French travellers are now able to visit Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans visiting France are able to travel with a European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved vaccination, which includes Pfizer and Covishield,” she added.

France is the fifth largest outbound market for expenditure, and Sri Lanka on an average attracts around 4.5% of that segment. During the first eight months of 2021, 1,175 French tourists visited Sri Lanka, accounting for 5% of the tourist traffic to the country, but down 95% from the same period a year earlier. 

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), in 2019 there were 87,623 inbound French tourists to Sri Lanka despite the Easter Sunday attacks, and that number higher still in 2018 with 106,499 tourists.

Fernando said the resumption of flights from national carrier SriLankan Airlines to France following a five-year gap, and Air France looking to fly to Sri Lanka, would be an added bonus in helping revive the battered-tourism industry, which has now missed three winter seasons since the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

SriLankan Airlines will launch direct flight operations from 31 October, while Air France will start from 1 November, where both airlines will operate thrice weekly flights between Colombo and Paris.

Earmarking France as an important market, Fernando also noted that concerns had been raised on the French segment to Sri Lanka over a lack of front cabin passengers. “This is an area the industry together with Sri Lanka tourism will look to address,” Fernando affirmed.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Chief also said that they were looking at participating in WTM and ITB with a view to attracting travellers from Europe – the largest source region for the country at present.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging since March 2020 and the latest drop in arrivals reinforces the continued struggle of the tourism industry.

Pointing out that tourism industry was the worst-hit by the pandemic, Tourism Minister Ranatunga on a number of occasions has said that the Government would step up revival efforts with new promotions to attract international travellers – subject to health guidelines. 

“Tourism is one of the quickest ways to earn much-needed foreign exchange to stabilise the economy,” he added.

The Minister also vehemently denied allegations by Opposition MPs and activist groups that the COVID-19 spread was down to the opening of the country for international travellers.

Tourist arrivals in the first eight months were 24,377 – a welcome development since the reopening of borders on 21 January, but down 95% from the corresponding period last year. Tourist arrivals in August sharply increased by 107% to 5,040 from July, despite the ongoing third wave of the COVID-pandemic. 

Private sector stakeholders believe the increase was largely influenced by travel restrictions being relaxed by authorities last month, particularly for fully vaccinated travellers, and the permitting of international tourists to enter the country via the Indian route.

Europe became the largest source region accounting for 15,637 of the total tourist traffic received in the first eight months, while the Asia Pacific and the Americas accounted for 5,506 and 2,670 tourists respectively.

In August, the largest source markets were Canada (594), Germany (512) and the UK (489).