- Asserts inquiries and reservations are steadily picking up from Russia, Qatar, Maldives and India
- Says FIFA Zone is not a fritter
- Anticipates increased footfall as favourite teams start to play
- FIFA Zone Committee Chair Thisum Jayasuriya says SLTPB steers campaign with SL Consulate in Qatar
By Charumini de Silva
Despite the slow start, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando yesterday confirmed that Sri Lanka has been chosen as a preferred destination by FIFA World Cup fans, with inquiries and reservations steadily picking up from Russia, Qatar, Maldives and India.
“The FIFA Zone is not a fritter. The industry stakeholders are promoting it along with the multiple partners,” he told the Daily FT. On 2 November, Sri Lanka Tourism officially unveiled its out-of-the-box travel packages to woo a fraction of the FIFA World Cup 2022 fan base to ‘FIFA Zone’ in Negombo.
The joint industry promotional effort will see the Sri Lanka Inbound Tour Operators Association (SLAITO), Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), along with Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) marketing three special packages starting from $ 650, including travel and accommodation with immediate effect.
In addition, SriLankan Airlines, Flydubai, Qatar Airways and Air India have come on board to support Sri Lanka Tourism’s efforts to draw a sizable fraction of the over 1.2 million football fans during the four to five-day break between the World Cup matches from 20 November to 18 December.
“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to tell the world Sri Lanka is open for business. Sri Lanka Tourism wants to explore and see how we can pull it off over the month to attract around 3,000 to 5,000 world soccer fans,” he said.
Minister Fernando expressed confidence that the footfall will increase as the favourite teams start to perform during the tournament and called on everyone concerned to be patiently watched over the next month.
All hotels, restaurants, travel agents and other stakeholders in Negombo have come on board to put together the FIFA Zone to accommodate and entertain the visitors.
“The FIFA Zone in Negombo is open for both tourists and locals. The entire beach stretch was packed on 20 Sunday to watch the opening ceremony and we hope it will continue to be so throughout the world cup,” Fernando said.
Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau Chairman and the FIFA Zone Committee Chair Thisum Jayasuriya said SLAITO and TAASL will promote the packages among their overseas agents, whilst SLTPB will work with the Sri Lanka Consulate in Qatar to boost footfall.
“Digital PR promotions are being out both locally and internationally, targeting all GCC countries, South America, Europe, India, and Russia,” he explained.
In addition, he said that they are working with FIFA on some digital campaigns on their official website too.
Sri Lanka welcomes 37,490 tourists in the first 20 days of the month, pushing the YTD arrivals to 605,748. Earnings from the tourism sector also crossed the $ 1 billion mark in October.