Sri Lanka Tourism hosts networking event in Kolkata

Sri Lanka Tourism is intensifying its promotional strategies towards Indian travellers by highlighting the country’s diverse tourism offerings in one of the largest key markets, Kolkata. Sri Lanka Tourism is hosting a networking evening on a Cruise over the Ganges on 10th July 2024, where Kolkata’s travel agents, key figures in the industry, and media representatives will network with a strong delegation led by Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and around 30 Destination Management Companies (Leisure and MICE), leading hotels & resorts, homestays, tour operators and other service providers from Sri Lanka.

The goal is to strengthen the bonds between Sri Lanka and India, paving the way for mutually beneficial partnerships in the tourism sector. The notable increase in Indian visitors to Sri Lanka has been a driving force behind the upsurge in tourist arrivals, with 198,161 Indian tourists having explored Sri Lanka from January to 7th July 2024.

In June 2024, Sri Lanka conducted a series of B2B roadshows and networking events in Indore, Vadodara, and Surat on the 10th, 12th, and 14th of June 2024 to establish a robust and enduring brand presence in India. The main aim of these gatherings was to draw more visitors from Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, positioning Sri Lanka as a destination suitable for tourists throughout the year. By highlighting Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, varied attractions, and progress, the events sought to reinforce the connection between Sri Lanka and India.

Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism, Lands, Sports, and Youth Affairs, expressed gratitude to India for consistently supporting Sri Lanka’s tourism development. He highlighted Sri Lanka’s progress into a middle-income nation with strong economic indicators, overcoming past challenges. In 2023, tourism earnings exceeded $2 billion, and by April 2024 revenues had already surpassed $1.25 billion. The goal for 2024 is to attract 2.5 million tourists and this looks achievable since almost 1 billion tourists have arrived to date. To achieve this goal, a global marketing campaign called “You’ll Come Back for More” was launched. Sri Lanka has actively promoted its attractions at major international events and conducted roadshows in key cities worldwide. India remains our top source with 18% of total tourism arrivals being Indians in the past 5 months and the extension of visa-free entry for Indian tourists further aims to boost visitor numbers.

Chalaka D. Gajabahu, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, emphasized tourism as the third-largest revenue stream for the island, noting its growth beyond beach tourism to encompass sports, culture, spirituality, and history. Since 2023, Sri Lanka established a strong presence in India with B2B roadshows in cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, and New Delhi, in addition to participating in major travel trade shows like Outbound Travel Mart (OTM) in Mumbai and South Asia’s Travel & Tourism Exchange (SATTE) in New Delhi. The strategy shifted towards impactful events in the West and Middle East, including participation in prominent trade shows such as World Travel Market in London, ITB in Germany, and Arabian Travel Mart in Dubai. Furthermore, B2B roadshows were conducted in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne in Australia, as well as in Turkey, complemented by B2C initiatives involving influencers and media programs by hosting around 300 media personnel from 15 countries, showcasing Sri Lanka’s readiness to welcome tourists.

Thisum Jayasuriya, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, highlighted Sri Lanka’s growth as a preferred MICE destination, with enhanced venues and accessibility attracting corporate events. The country’s MICE sector saw success with the 3rd MICE expo in May 2024, featuring 100 international buyers and 113 local suppliers. India remains a key target market for MICE travel, with efforts to increase revenue from this segment. The collected data shows that the MICE arrival comes to 9.5% in 2023 compared to the overall tourist arrival and is expected this percentage to grow up to 12% in 2024, aiming for earnings of over $550 million. By 2026, the target is $1.36 billion in earnings and 10% of total arrivals from MICE tourism. The bureau aims for an 11% increase in MICE arrivals annually, as MICE travellers spend significantly more than other tourist segments.

The networking evening will emphasise Sri Lanka’s stunning landscapes, vibrant cultural heritage, and welcoming atmosphere through discussions and presentations, encouraging travellers to revisit this captivating island destination. Attendees will be treated to a showcase of Sri Lanka’s varied attractions, ranging from pristine beaches to ancient temples, marking a new chapter of tourism excellence for the island nation.

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