Sri Lanka ‘Wonder of Asia’ promoted at New York Times travel show

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 00:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 Sri Lanka Tourism and SriLankan Airlines took part at ‘The New York Times Travel Show,’ which is North America’s Premier Travel Show, held at the prestigious Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre in New York City from 25-27 February.

The 2010 show attracted over 16,000 travel professional and enthusiasts as well as over 600 exhibitors representing 150+ countries. This year the show is expected to draw over 40,000 highly coveted consumers and 7,000 trade professionals. Sri Lanka Tourism and SriLankan Airlines have consecutively participated at this show since its inauguration.

The Sri Lanka Tourism booth was officially opened on Friday, 25 February by Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in the United States, Dr. Palitha Kohona Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Dillan Ariyawansa, Head of SriLankan Airlines in North Americas and Honorary Director for Sri Lanka Tourism in the USA. Also present was the PATA Chairman Hiran Cooray along with distinguished guests.

“This is a great showcase for Sri Lanka and for SriLankan Airlines,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “The world’s top travel publications have already discovered that Sri Lanka is the world’s best travel destination. This show, which includes so many travel professionals, will drive that message home.”

Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said: “Sri Lanka Tourism, SriLankan Airlines and the private sector have collaborated in showcasing Sri Lanka at the Travel Fair in a fabulous manner. The graceful dancers of the Channa Troupe clearly reflect the confidence, the beauty and the exuberance of a country dusting off the recent conflict and surging ahead as top tourist destination and a lucrative investment opportunity.”

Dillan Ariyawansa said: “Americans are ready to go and see the ‘Wonder of Asia’. With the conclusion of terrorism in Sri Lanka, there is a tremendous increase in inquiries from American tour operators, travel writers and tourists who are excited to go and visit this beautiful island.”

Sri Lanka’s participation at the show will also include cultural presentations. The world-renowned Sri Lankan Dance troupe ‘Channa-Upuli,’ flown in courtesy SriLankan Airlines, will perform on Saturday, 26 February at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and again on Sunday, 27 February, at  11:30 a.m. on the Asia Stage, which is one of six cultural stages at the show featuring live performances and culinary presentations from around the world.

The most rated American News Channel (NY 1) featured a live performance ‘Making of the Lion Dance’ by the Channa-Upuli Dance Troupe. Three tour operators from Sri Lanka are also taking part in the show. They are D.K.R. Dharmapala of Lanka Sportreizen, Rajitha Rajapakse from Walkers Tours Limited and Shiromal Cooray of the Jetwing Group.

Travel to Sri Lanka has increased dramatically in the past year, up 50 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009. The increase is credited to the successful conclusion of Sri Lanka’s conflict against terrorism in May 2009 and a series of favourable travel articles praising Sri Lanka as a premier destination. Publications giving Sri Lanka top travel rankings include The New York Times, National Geographic Traveller and the websites Daily Candy and Lonely Planet.

Travel promotion has become a priority for the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington. Ambassador Wickramasuriya recently hosted a dinner for top travel writers.

In August 2010 the Ambassador hosted a ‘Signature Tour’ of Sri Lanka for 25 Washington area professionals. A second ‘Ambassador’s Signature Tour’ is now in the planning stages, with more than 100 participants so far.

In addition, the embassy is organising a tour of Sri Lanka for young people ages 16 to 22. The ‘Global Youth Ambassador’s Program’ will include visits to Sri Lanka’s Parliament and other Government institutions, as well as to heritage sites and Sri Lankan schools.

“We want people to go to Sri Lanka and to experience Sri Lanka for themselves,” the Ambassador said. “A lot gets written about Sri Lanka. Those who go there and actually experience the changes taking place can’t help but see progress and opportunity for all Sri Lankans.”

Sri Lanka has been aggressively rebuilding since the end of the conflict, investing heavily in infrastructure in the North and East.

Hoteliers are on track to add 30,000 hotel rooms by 2016, and a new port in the southern city of Hambantota recently opened. A second international airport near Hambantota is also under construction and Sri Lanka has plans to renovate its 14 regional airports to accommodate increased travel.

While about 650,000 tourists arrived in 2010 (compared to less than 500,000 in 2009), Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority predicts that 2.5 million visitors by 2016.