The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) organised an online awareness session on opening Sri Lanka for Indian travellers recently.
Over 280 participants joined the event including prominent outbound travel operators and journalists from popular newspapers in Mumbai.
Sri Lankan Consul General in Mumbai Dr. V.K. Valsan said in his opening remarks, “The forum is important as it is represented by some of the important stakeholders of the Indo-Sri Lankan tourism industry, especially at a time, when the tourism industry all over the world, is going through a turbulent period, due to COVID-19 pandemic, for the last one and half years.
However, with aggressive vaccination campaigns, throughout the world, including in India and Sri Lanka, the tourism industry is beginning to see an opportunity for it to get back on its feet and revive itself.”
“Considering this opportunity and the mutual economic and diplomatic importance of the Indo-Sri Lankan tourism industry, our Government has taken the initiative of exploring this opportunity by opening up Sri Lanka to the Indian travellers,” the Consul General in Mumbai, said.
Sri Lankan Missions in India have identified tremendous opportunities to increase the numbers, given the size of the Indian travel market and the interest of Indian tourists to visit Sri Lanka. The promotion of sectors such as MICE, weddings, films, the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka, etc. has much potential in India according to the document of Integrated Country Strategy for Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions in India submitted by High Commissioner-designate of Sri Lanka to India Milinda Moragoda.
The document can be accessed via https://rb.gy/f6mqnp.
Keynote speeches were delivered by the Consul General, Acting Managing Director of SLTPB, Director/Marketing of SLTPB focusing on the new guidelines issued, opening Sri Lanka for Indian travellers.
Sri Lanka tourism’s local stakeholders such as Tourist Hotel Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), and Association of Small & Medium Enterprises in Tourism Sri Lanka (ASMET) were also represented at the event.
THASL President Sanath Ukwatte explained about the preparedness of Sri Lanka’s hotel industry to cater to the needs of international travellers under this post-COVID environment.
SLAITO Vice President Nishard Wijetunga highlighted that movement of international tourists arranged by local DMCs was not restricted at all and also mentioned the importance of Indian tourists to Sri Lanka.
ASMET Past President Mervyn Fernandopulle conveyed that all the stakeholders of Sri Lanka tourism were working in tandem to revive the industry that had been hit by the COVID pandemic.
After listening to the remarks by local stakeholders of Sri Lanka tourism, the two main tour operators’ associations in India, Tour Agents Association of India (TAAI) and Agents Federation of India (TAFI) expressed their views on the new guidelines and their suggestions on how Sri Lanka could bring closer to the Indian travellers.
TAAI Vice President Jay Bhatia expressed that they were willing to promote Sri Lanka further and requested to organise fam tours to Sri Lanka to raise the interest among the tour operators. Furthermore, he is of the view that the Sri Lanka tourism strategy should focus more on tourists who had already been to Sri Lanka rather than trying to acquire new tourists considering the uncertainty of the present times.
TAFI President Ajay Prakash sharing the same views, requested to promote non-traditional aspects of Sri Lanka tourism such as culture, architecture, adventure tourism, etc. He further said that the organisation of events such as the Kite festival which was organised in Sri Lanka earlier were the best ways to promote this niche segment which would give a sense of participation for the tourists with the Sri Lankans, and will be appealing to Indian tourists as a weekend getaway.
During the discussion, one of the important points raised was the connectivity between Sri Lanka and India at the moment.
Answering this question, SriLankan Airlines Manager for western region of India Ruwan Wijekoon said that they had increased the number of flights from India to Sri Lanka from 11 destinations. From Mumbai, three flights at noon focusing on Indian tourist needs and two flights at night to cater to business travellers, are operating at the moment. In addition, he went on to explain the ‘buy one get one free’ offer available to Indian travellers visiting Sri Lanka which received a lot of interest from the participants.
Many requested further information on this offer, especially the journalists, who were interested to write on this. To provide further details in this regard, it was requested to share participants’ email address. Participants of the webinar pointed out that the Mumbai Mission of Sri Lanka can keep its official website updated about the new tourism guidelines. It highlighted the necessity to upload the related information, circulars, etc. This webinar was conceptualised, initiated, coordinated and moderated by Mumbai Mission Consul (Commercial) Sandun Sameera.