At the head table from left: Sri Lanka Convention Bureau CEO Vipula Wanigasekara, SriLankan Airlines Promotions and Brand Management Manager Pradeep Durairaj, Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Additional Secretary Shirani Weerakoon, Christian Religious Affairs and Deputy Minister of Tourism Arundika Fernando, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Acting Chairman P.M. Withana, Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Secretary P.H.J.B. Sugathadasa and Connaissance De Ceylon CEO Chandra Wickramasinghe – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
By Shannine Daniel
Syndicat National Des agents de Voyages (SNAV), the largest travel agents association in France, at its Executive Board meeting this month voted unanimously for Sri Lanka as the venue for its congress 2016.
This is a significant landmark for Sri Lanka since this is the first time in 10 years that the Congress is to be held at a long haul destination. “When they decided to go to a long haul destination they chose Sri Lanka and that itself is a victory for Sri Lankan Tourism,” declared Sri Lanka Convention Bureau CEO Vipula Wanigasekara.
Currently, French tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka stand at almost 80,000 for the year 2014, having moved up from 16,905 in 2009. “So far this year we have seen an overall growth of 10%, and most probably we will reach 100,000 by the end of the year,” said Wanigasekara.
He made these statements at a press conference held by Sri Lanka Tourism along with the Ministry of Tourism and Christian Affairs. France plays a key role in tourism and travel industry of Sri Lanka and this event is a platform for Sri Lanka to showcase her full tourism potential to the French market in the imminent years. Wanigasekara asserted that this Congress will bring in 600-700 French outbound travellers, as well as a considerable number of French travel agents who may not have had the opportunity to experience Sri Lanka for themselves. France has emerged as the fifth largest sourcing market for Sri Lankan tourism and the congress will ensure an opportunity to show case the country to over 700 French travel agents. It also generates the highest number of incentive travellers from all of Europe which is another plus point for the Sri Lankan tourist industry due to the fact that incentive travellers spend at least three times more than leisure travellers. In terms of expense Tourism Deputy Minister Arundika Fernando stated that the Sri Lankan Government is spending Rs. 40 million on this promotion, and since it is a joint cooperation between Sri Lanka and France and the burden of expense does fall on Sri Lanka alone. “In the past we have spent a lot of money on promotions before and it had a big impact on the economy,” he said. The varied segments of the French market for travel and tourism are of notable importance since trade unions and adventure tourism also generate a significant level of income for Sri Lanka. The turnover generated from the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka is more than Rs. 2 million and of that 20% is attained from the French market. The exposure gained at this Congress will have a spill over effect in many other fields in the country and will further consolidate and strengthen the relationship between the people of Sri Lanka and France. Another noteworthy advantage generated by this event is that it may encourage other member countries in the European Union such as Germany, Spain and Portugal to invest in Sri Lanka and further tourism within the country, Fernando opined. “Tourism is the future,” he pointed out. These were some of the key factors which backed Sri Lanka’s decision to bid for this conference at the recently-concluded IFTM TOPRESA Travel Fair in France. The official campaign to bring SNAV congress to Sri Lanka was spearheaded in Paris by members of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in France and the Tourism Promotion Bureau and was supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Christian Affairs, the Industry authorities and SriLankan Airlines.
Created in 1944, SNAV is a professional organisation it has a membership of 5,700 State approved travel agencies and tour operators of France Representing more than 5,000 sales points in France with the objective of affirming economic and social substantiality of the industry and tourism and travel in France and Europe. SNAV travel agencies network with major associations of institutional tourism and is a permanent member of ECTAA (European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations).
The formal announcement of Sri Lanka as the host country of the SNAV congress will take place on the 18 November at the SNAV Annual General Meeting in Marseilles, France.