Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the industry’s leading travel and tourism exhibition within the Middle Eastern and Pan Arab Regions. Sri Lanka Tourism has been participating at this event since 2003 along with the members of the travel and industry in Sri Lanka and this was our 13th consecutive year of participation at the event. Sri Lanka is an island consisted with millions of natural advantages by having the highest bio diversity in Asia, backed by a strong culture, historical artefacts, exotic beaches, green environment and friendly people. As an island, Sri Lanka tourism promotes Authenticity, Compactness and Diversity as its unique selling propositions.
Sri Lanka Tourism has achieved a multitude of successes during 2015 recording the ever highest tourist arrivals in the history which is 1.8Million. This was accompanied by a tremendous growth rate of 18% compared with the year 2014. Sri Lanka is well on its way to its 2.2 million arrivals goal in 2016 with an estimated growth rate of 22%. The Government intends to do this by diversifying tourism offering further through efficient connectivity across the island, enhance products and elevating service standards. The Government plans to introduce a new zonal development for tourism, and place special emphasis on preservation of cultural, religious and natural resources.
GROWTH OF TOTAL ARRIVALS VS. MIDDLE EAST ARRIVALS (2011 – 2015)
Usually the Middle East region contributes over 7% – 8% for the total tourist arrivals for Sri Lanka every year. There were above one hundred thousand tourist arrivals were recorded from the Middle East Region where Saudi Arabia has shown a tremendous increase over the period of time which recorded 36,617 number of travellers to Sri Lanka during 2015. UAE brings the second highest number of travellers from this region where above 10,000 travellers visited in 2015. Oman is an established market for Sri Lanka Tourism where 14,216 number of travellers recorded during last year. Prominently the Israel and Kuwait were two emerging markets for Sri Lanka Tourism.
MARKET GROWTH IN MIDDLE EAST (2011 – 2015)
Sri Lanka face intense competition from other tourism destinations both regionally and globally and these consumer and trade related promotions were supported to make a visible impact for Sri Lanka Tourism. In order to remain competitive as a tourism destination and sustain competitiveness, Sri Lanka was focussed on specific promotions under the identified eight themes as her tourism product portfolio to promote among the potential travellers. There were three USPs identified by Sri Lanka Tourism to set Sri Lanka apart from its competitors as diversity, authenticity and compactness.
THE KEY COUNTRY HIGHLIGHTS
- Sri Lanka is strategically located at the cross roads of both east and west sea routes and serves as the point of entry to South Asia. Major international airlines operate frequent flights from Sri Lanka to popular cities in Middle East by Qatar Air, Sri Lankan Airlines, Etihad, Emirates and Oman Air.
- Sri Lanka is a safe destination and all tourists are free to travel to any part of the country. Foreign travelers could easily obtain visas online without the hassle of filling of paper documents.
- The East with the finest beaches, surf and whale watching; the North with its temples and beaches; the Central and Southern parts with game sanctuaries, the South with its sandy beaches and the cultural triangle depicting the history and archaeology of ancient Sri Lanka.
- The overall country is a preferred destination for global trade and the value of the brand namely few trade highlights are as follows.
- Sri Lanka is known as a preferred ethical sourcing capital of the world for apparel with key apparel companies.
- Sri Lanka is also earned the recognition of being ethically manufactured cleanest Tea as per “Kyoto Protocol” and is the global leader for Black tea.
- Sri Lanka is known as a Blue Sapphire capital of the world with Princess Diana’s Wedding ring generous a Ceylon sapphire.
- Sri Lanka supplies 90% of the world demand for Cinnamon, branded as Ceylon Cinnamon.
- Development of High Mobility networks have been given a top priority while expressways connecting Colombo-Matara and Colombo – Katunayaka are completed, three further developments are underway. Colombo International Airport has modern facilities for passengers in the sub-continent. Recently, 100 million dollars were invested in the new passenger terminal. Mattala International Airport in the South is a second international airport. Network of domestic airports, and sea ports are being evaluated for further development. Sri Lanka has been recognized as a top destination to explore through rail.
- Sri Lanka is currently focusing on creating a business friendly environment. Sri Lanka Tourism’s “One Stop Shop” is a centralized promotion and facilitation center created to assist potential tourism investors interested in investing a minimum capital of USD 2 million and over. Tax concessions for tourism projects were proposed in 2016 budget.
- Sri Lanka is also heading towards a major global logistics hub in the South Asian region in addition to the rapid development of various sectors of the economy with top hotel chains like Shangri-La, Hyatt and ITC Sheraton setting up large properties to cater to the affluent clientele of foreign guests. Luxury / Branded hotel and resort developments are motivated and facilitated to meet carrying capacity of tourist zones in the country.
- Luxury Tourism, Sport & Adventure Tourism and Wildlife & Nature Tourism have been identified as priority areas for investment. World class lifestyle and entertainment investments such as golfing, yachting, cruise terminals, spas, wellness/healing, yoga, a vibrant arts and culture scene and world class restaurants are being encouraged as well as Eco tourism and sustainable development ventures that prioritizes conservation of natural and heritage resources.
- Modern Exhibitions & Conventions Centers to be strategically constructed supporting the MICE tourism.
EXTRAORDINARY OFFERS OF SRI LANKA
“It is undoubtedly the finest island of its size in all the world” – Marco Polo
This beautiful island destination offers a diverse yet authentic tourist experience across the island. The country is rich in natural resources, and boasts the highest biodiversity in Asia, and is the home to both the Blue Whale and Asian Elephant. Sri Lanka has several national parks and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The forests and wildlife sanctuaries, a year-round benign climate, spectacular landscapes in the highlands and lowlands, a rich biodiversity and, above all, a friendly and welcoming people. Sinharaja Forest Reserve which is a hilly rain forest that is home to an abundance of rare and precious endemic species- trees, amphibians, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. The Central Highlands made up of Three Wet-zone parks situated in the hills in the middle of Sri Lanka. The island is unique due to its Compactness, Diversity and the Authenticity. The differencing factors of Sri Lanka is nature, heritage, culture combined with sun, sea and sand. One could have 8 themes of experiences in Sri Lanka.
The pristine beaches and relaxing beach holidays are guaranteed all year round. Sportive holidaymakers find perfect conditions for hiking, diving, (kite) surfing or golfing and for the adventurous the island offers a range of thrills between top of the mountains and the depths of the oceans. With a rich history of over 3000 years, visitors interested in culture and history can travel to the past while visiting the remains of ancient cities; fifteen national parks attract nature lovers. Ayurveda Resorts here are among the best in the world and offer top quality health and wellness programs.
Emerging Themes of Tourism
Luxury Tourism, Sport & Adventure Tourism and Wildlife & Nature Tourism have been identified as emerging tourism themes of Sri Lanka. World class lifestyle and entertainment investments such as golfing, yachting, weddings and honeymoons, cruise terminals, spas, wellness/healing, yoga, a vibrant arts and culture scene and world class restaurants are being encouraged at present. Eco tourism and sustainable development ventures that prioritizes conservation of natural and heritage resources have been prioritized in the current context.
As a result of this well-established infrastructure and diverse range of opportunities, Sri Lanka has recognized globally as a potential destination to travel. Dream Trips, special edition of Lonely Planet Magazine has endorsed Sri Lanka as one of the Top 10 destinations to visit in 2016. Together with this statement, Sri Lanka achieved a rich collection of endorsements from recognized global travel publications from the beginning of 2016. FoxNews.com, Condé Nast Traveler, ABTA – Association of British Travel Agents, Haper’s Bazaar (UK) Magazine were few of them who endorsed this beautiful designation as one of the top travel decisions to make in 2016.