By Cheranka Mendis
In a further boost to the country’s post-war profile, leaders of tourism in the Asia Pacific will converge in peaceful Sri Lanka for a key annual meeting beginning Thursday.
Representatives from 154 countries and 400 affiliate members from the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities are expected for the 23rd Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific which Sri Lanka will be hosting for the first time. The previous event was held in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The two meetings will be held in conjunction with the UNWTO Conference on Mainstreaming Tourism in the Media.
Items on the agenda include measures UNWTO is taking to mainstream tourism on the global agenda, latest developments on the implementation of the tourism satellite account, the T.20 Ministers’ initiative and a brief on UNWTO’s study planned on the importance of domestic tourism.
The Conference on Mainstreaming Tourism in the Media will focus on how tourism can be a key vehicle to overcome adverse publicity and to rebuild the image of a country while repositioning it against a backdrop of socio-political challenges.
Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told journalists yesterday the event will also be an ideal opportunity to promote Sri Lanka which is enjoying a renaissance following the end of war in May 2009.
Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau General Manager Vipula Wanigasekera stated that among the international delegates who will speak at the event are UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Principal Media Officer Marcel Risi, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board Dr. Victor Wee, Moderator BBC World Wide Sunita Rajan, Director China Bureau Aljendro Ossa, Director MTW Associates Susan Warren, and travel journalist Simon Calder.
Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Dr. Nalaka Godahewa are also scheduled to speak.
A number of international media organisations who will be partaking in the annual conference have already come down to Sri Lanka, Wanigasekera said. Among the foreign media are those from NTAS and BBC World News from the UK, Deutsche Welle from Germany, La Repubblica from Italy and other institutions from Hong Kong, India and Maldives. They are currently on a tour around the country as a part of Sri Lanka Tourism’s promotion initiatives and will be back for the inauguration ceremony to be held on 24 March.
“This is an ideal opportunity for us to showcase the beauty of Sri Lanka to the foreign journalists who in turn would take it to the large network of people. Being held on the ‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ year this is an excellent chance to market ourselves internationally,” Wanigasekara added.