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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Broad Strategic Marketing Plan introduced for year 2016 The tourism industry of Sri Lanka is poised for growth to achieve sustainable development phase within the next few years, based on the strategic direction determined by the new government.Sri Lanka Tourism has formulated a broad Strategic Marketing Plan for year 2016, with the participation of private and public sector stakeholders addressing long standing needs of the industry and the future expectations of the country as a tourism destination. The new strategy was refined for its contents to maximise the benefits to the tourism industry and to position Sri Lanka as the most sought after travel destination in Asia.  During year 2015 up to November , Sri Lanka Tourism recorded 18.1% growth on arrivals with 1.5 million arrivals. The total tourism revenue generated was US$ 2.2 billion. At this backdrop, the tourism promotional plan of year 2016 is formulated based on five key strategic objectives. Attracting a target number of 2.2 million visitors with 26% annual growth, increasing average daily expenditure of a tourist up to US$ 200 and average stay, contributing to generate a total tourism revenue up to US$ 2.75 billion will be the key performance measures. Uplifting Sri Lanka’s brand value up to US$ 80 million through tactical marketing campaigns focusing on main product offerings of the county will serve as the overall goal of the promotional strategy devised for 2016. The core destination promotional tools will be enhanced such as advertising and PR to implement a global advertising campaign and global PR initiative to stay ahead of the major competitors to Sri Lanka. The advertising campaign will be implemented in line with the Nation Branding Campaign initiated by the government of Sri Lanka thus by choosing leading service providers following the government procurement guidelines. Tourism promotional strategy 2016 has addressed the long standing need of appointing PR agencies for key markets especially in Europe, East Asia, Benelux and emerging markets. Sri Lanka Tourism wish to appoint PR agencies for major source markets in order to achieve country promotional objectives and aggressively promote the country enhancing tourism brand in the world. The strategic choice for country promotions has been constantly challenged by the global trend towards internet/online based destination marketing in the recent years. Most of the traditional marketing tools have been outdated with the introduction of web based booking engines, tour planning, e-marketing and other real time services available to frequent travelers online. Considering these developments, Sri Lanka Tourism has opted to implement a fully-fledged online and digital marketing campaign for year 2016. The campaign will create language specific web sites for all main markets and will promote the destination on focused online and social media platforms identified in each country.  Special prominence has been given to attract travel bloggers with high reputation who will act as brand ambassadors generating credibility providing first-hand publicity for Sri Lanka based on experience gathered by visiting the country.  The trade familiarization tours and media familiarization tours will continue to be a major component of year 2016 marketing plan. Overall 300 travel agents and 200 travel media will be facilitated from the countries around the world under the familiarization tours hosted by Sri Lanka Tourism. Familiarization tours will attract prominent print and electronic media to Sri Lanka to produce and generate articles on the destination and its tourism products.  The traditional promotional activities such as participating for travel fairs, conducting roadshows and outdoor promotions will also be carried out in each country. However this will be focused and implemented based on the need analysis. For year 2016 SLTPB will participate at 46 travel fairs and road shows in 20 key countries in order to develop the product brand and generate sales by B2B agent interactions. While there is an uncertainty of Sri Lankan Airlines continuing to operate in Europe and several other destinations of choice, Sri Lanka Tourism hope to enter into strategic partnerships with new and existing Airlines connecting the regions capitalising on the “Open Sky” policy of the government of Sri Lanka. It is planned to develop strategic partnerships with all existing key airlines and work with new airlines like Austrian Air and Malindu Air and Air China who will have new operations to Sri Lanka. The tourism strategy has allocated budgets for working with airlines and strategic partnerships along with attracting charter flights. Positioning Sri Lanka as a venue for international and domestic events will be a key component of the 2016 marketing strategy. Sri Lanka Tourism hope to stage internationally acclaimed tourism related events in Sri Lanka during next year such as Arugam Bay Pro- Surf, Kiteathelon, Adventure Tourism events etc. In the meantime more than 25 cultural /religious events and arts and entertainment events  that has direct impact for tourism development will be conducted by Sri Lanka Tourism . The activities will be strengthened by increased monetary contribution in year 2016. On the other hand , steps will be taken to improve the quality of tourism products by investing on the infrustructre developments. Tourism information centers will be strengthened for better serving the travellers . Local media Campaigns , New product developments, niche segments developmemt, working with provincial councils for domestic tourism development are part of the strategy formulated for year 2016.  During the year 2016 Sri Lanka will host the largest ever French travel agent’s congress SNAV, by attracting 600 travel agents from France to the country.  The congress will provide huge exposure for the destination in Europe, especially in French speaking countries. Sri Lanka Tourism hope to promote the country as a destination for MICE travel and leisure travelers by  proving its capasity to host events of this capasity. Sri Lanka has also won the host country status for PATA 2017 which provide similar exposure to the destination. The bidding process will continue to attract more congresses, incentive travellers and events with the objective of making Sri Lanka the MICE hub of Asia. The government of Sri Lanka has provided special consessions to MICE travel  development which is an encouraging factor to invest in this sector.  The new tourism strategic marketing plan of 2016 will focus on the long term result oriented approach to develop tourism industry in Sri Lanka than serving short term goals.Supported by the strong presence of the newly appointed Tourism Advisory Committee, Hon. Prime Minsiter, Board of Directors ,Chairman, Hon.Tourism Minister & Deputy Minister and the Ministry Secretary, it is aimed at laying the foundation for a far sighted tourism development strategy based on the industry inputs garnered from decades of experience , analysing research findings and country’s competitive position while being attuned to constant challenges faced by soci-political and cultural environment in the world tourism landscape.  The Budget Proposal of 2016 has introduced a comprehensive policy framework for tourism development.Under the guidence of  Hon. Prime Minister several key initiatives have been proposed such as setting up an Aquaculture park in Batticaloa, promote sale of gem and jewellery, encourage MICE tourism by establishing necessary infrastructure, encourage spending by tourists, trasform and upgrade touirst attraction sites and local tourism zones, encourage theme parks and removal of tax for water sport equipments yachts etc & introduce hovercrafts and other water based sports for tourists, tax holidays for investors and removal of TDL are key areas proposed. With the view of improving operational efficiency and to facilitate investement a new organisation will be formd under the name “Agency for Development”.Tourism branding  plan, training and development for tourism youth, registration of tourist hotels based on quality standards etc of the Budget Proposal 2016 , will heavily contribute to sustainable tourism development strategy for Sri Lanaka. As such Sri Lanka Tourism is confident that the new strategic direction will move the country forward making it the most sought after travel destination in Asia while all stakeholders of the industry reap its benefits. It is very clear that within the next few years to come, tourism industry will become a sustainable sector in the Sri Lankan economy being the top GDP contributor within next few years. Sri Lanka will adopt a concerted and coordinated approach linking private and public sector and all stakeholders ,to assess policies that govern future industry development and provide knowledge to  guide successful and sustainable Travel & Tourism strategy for the country. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

IATA Environmental Assessment Programme gathers momentum

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that five airlines have recently successfully completed stages of the IATA Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) programme.IEnvA is an innovative, voluntary, two-stage evaluation process designed to drive airline environmental performance improvements through independent assessment. Finnair and South African Airways have completed the IEnvA Stage 2 assessment, the highest level of IEnvA achievement. This ensures that an airline has implemented all of the IEnvA Programme Standards, identified and mitigated its significant environmental impacts and has set performance targets. Stage 2 also certifies that an airline has developed processes for monitoring and reviewing its performance against its environmental targets and objectives. Icelandair, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines have completed IEnvA Stage 

1, which ensures an airline has established a foundation and framework for its environmental management system. Stage 1 also certifies an airline has identified and complied with its environmental legal requirements. These five airlines join a growing number of carriers that have already successfully completed IEnvA Stage 1 Assessments, namely Air Transat, Kenya Airways, LATAM, LATAM Cargo and Malaysia Airlines. “In addition to safety, environmental responsibility is the highest priority for the industry. The new IATA Environmental Assessment sits alongside our industry-wide carbon-reduction targets as a programme for ensuring airlines not only meet but also exceed their day-to-day operational environmental obligations and performance. Our congratulations to Icelandair, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines for completing Stage 1 and I would particularly like to commend Finnair and South African Airways for being the first to complete the Stage 2 assessment.

 These airlines are among the pioneers in this critical new programme. IATA’s audits and assessment schemes are impartial, independent evaluations designed to improve industry performance against global benchmarks. The IATA Operational Safety Audit has done much to help improve airline safety and we expect that the IEnvA will do the same for environmental standards,” said IATA DirectorGeneral and CEO Tony Tyler. The IEnvA programme uses environmental standards and recommended practices developed specifically for the aviation sector by a joint team of environmental experts from within and outside the industry. These are based on recognized environmental management system principles, such as ISO 14001. Assessments are conducted by accredited independent organisations with competencies in aviation and environmental auditing. IEnvA has been developed in conjunction with airlines so that it addresses industry needs and specific concerns.

 IEnvA assesses environmental performance against sustainability standards across a broad range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) the management of air quality and emissions, noise, fuel consumption and operational efficiency, recycling, energy efficiency, sustainable procurement and biofuel utilization. As a result, IEnvA helps airlines to simplify regulatory compliance, demonstrate good governance and achieve financial savings from the better use of resources. The programme adopts a modular approach, initially focusing on flight operations and corporate activities at a global level with later expansion into other activities including catering, ground operations and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). The IEnvA Programme is complementary to the aviation industry’s four-pillar strategy for addressing climate change impacts. In 2009 the industry agreed to cap emissions through carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and cut net emissions by 50 percent (compared to 2005) by 2050, through a combination of technology and operations improvements, better use of infrastructure and the implementation of a global market-based measure.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Qatar Airways signs code-share agreement with Sun-Air

Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar and one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, has signed a code-share agreement with Danish carrier Sun-Air, a franchise of British Airways. Effective October 8, 2015 Sun-Air and Qatar Airways are introducing code-share flights between Billund, Aalborg and Aarhus in Jutland, the Western part of Denmark, and several European destinations including Oslo, Brussels, Manchester and Munich. This new cooperation expands the options for Qatar Airways’ passengers travelling to and from Denmark, opening up an enhanced range of travel options in addition to Copenhagen. The code-share agreement will lead to excellent new connections between Denmark and a large number of business and leisure destinations around the world including Bali, Singapore, Mumbai, Goa, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hanoi, Shanghai, Hyderabad and Dhaka. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, said: Sun-Air’s company values are closely aligned with those of Qatar Airways and we therefore see excellent opportunities with this new code-share agreement, maintaining and enhancing our competitive offer to customers. Qatar Airways is expanding rapidly across the world and the agreement with Sun-Air further strengthens our position, whilst providing our passengers with an unrivalled global network.” Sun-Air’s Commercial Director, Kristian Tvergaard, said: ”We are honoured to be able to add the Qatar Airways code on our flights and in this way offer unique connections for our customers between our three bases in Jutland - Billund, Aarhus and Aalborg - and the Qatar Airways hub in Doha. I am convinced our customers will appreciate the global network offer beyond Doha and not least the excellent inflight service offered by Qatar Airways which is very similar to Sun-Air’s.” - See more at:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sri Lanka Tourism celebrate ‘World Tourism Day'

The Chairman Sri Lanka a Promotions Bureau Dr Rohantha Athukorala who orchestrated the partnership Dr Silva the Founder and coordinator of the Tourism Masters programme said ' the tourism business is the most competitive and dynamic industry one can work as it is to do with people's leisure and their behaviour. Hence, this keeps changing daily where people are seeking new experiences in their life. This in turn demands the industry to change accordingly.  If we do not, we will loose our competitiveness. Which is where the Colombo University will help us  bridge this gap. This makes the celebration of Worlds Tourism Day very purposeful he said. Universities globally are  organisations that perform a key role within contemporary society by educating large proportions of the population and generating knowledge but many universities have taken action to develop a ‘third mission’ by fostering links with knowledge users and facilitating technology transfer. The latter is what we are interested in and the private sector tourism chambers- SLITO, THASL and ASMET will be the key stakeholders in the partnership said Athukorala.  The key issues that were identified and shared at the World Tourism day with the university of Colombo were as follows: - Strategies for better management of traffic in wildlife parks Are the tourist arrival numbers right - case study in Sri Lanka, Building a destination brand in the digital age, Importance hygiene and sanitation when a country attracts top end visitors, Can Sigiriya the 8th wonder be better marketers. Is casinos the best way to attract the top dollar tourist, the need for the Tourism master plan for Sri Lanka, The HR issue in the hospitality industry of Sri Lanka , Why has the Tourism industry not grown like the tea and apparel industry of Sri Lanka, Do Chinese tourist increase the crime rate in a country - case study of Sri Lanka Should Sri Lanka focus on Golf Tourism? How to moderate online booking companies operating is Sri Lanka, Halal tourism will it work in Sri Lanka? A structured process of new product development for the tourism industry, What is carrying capacity in the Tourism industry? Is there a future for Charters to work in the Sri Lanka's tourism sector, The relationship between infrastructure development and tourist arrivals in a country just to name a few. All copy research topics that has been approved by the senate will be available at the Sri Lanka Tourism library so that it can be used by the private sector which I will personally monitor commented Dr Athukorala.

Tourism Receipts touch $2.1 billion as at end September 2015

Sri Lanka's Tourism recorded the highest growth of 35.9% in September whilst tourism receipts reached 2.1 billion dollars as at end September 2015 which is the upturn we have seen with strong promotions done by a private-public partnership. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau chairman Dr Athukorala opinioned that the key issue to address is the un-control sector leisure industry accounting for 49% of business whilst it's imperative that we focus on attracting the $250 tourist ensure financial sustainability.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sri Lanka Tourism to highlight Esala Perahera at Japan JATA World Expo 2015

  • Some call it a must visit in one’s life time 
  • We must now tell this story to the world

 JATA Tourism EXPO 2015 Japan, internationally recognized as one of the largest travel events in the world which presents Japan as a tourism nation to the world that not only attracts the leisure sector but also other industries will take place on the 25th of September 2015 in Tokyo. The Sri Lanka as a country which has highest number of celebrations in a country will highlight one of the most colorful and grandest Buddhist festival in the country is known as the Esela Perahera at JATA Tourism Expo 2015. The Sri Lankan contingent of 26 key industry tourism professionals who will represent the country that has recorded a flat arrival growth as at end August 2015 with 25,973 visitors. We must now focus correct the market to attract a fifty thousand by end Mid year 2016 said Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Dr. Rohantha Athukorala. More popularly known at JATA it is considered one of the ideal forums to showcase varied destinations and for for travel professionals to exchange travel information and conduct one-to-one business meetings, while inspiring consumers said the official website of JATA 2015.
                        The 2015 edition is said to attract150 countries and regions and has the potential to directly interact with the 150, 000 visitors said the conference organizer which is why Sri Lanka is taking a unique positioning said Dr Athukorala. We will show case the Kandy ‘Esala Perahera’ recorded as one of the oldest parades in the world is held yearly and believed to commemorate the first teaching given by Lord Buddha after he attained enlightenment.  This years edition saw 153 of elephants and tuskers that were robed, illuminated and parade the streets in discipline leaving any spectator awestruck. Elephants- one of Sri Lanka’s Big five mammals; majestic gentle who add nothing but splendor to this grand festival. The show stopper of the parade is theTusker who walks in supreme grace and great pride carrying the glorious golden casket called the ‘Karaduwa’ sheltered with a canopy which contains the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. The musicians, dancers and all participants of the parade are those taking over their duties fromgeneration after generation. Families are bound by their faith and dedication to participate in this event year after year despite their residence and other career obligations said The communique from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau. We now need to tell this wonderful story to the world said Chairman Dr Athukorala.  The 2015 edition attracted around 15,000 visitors with over 25 media teams covering the perahera. A live feed of the event was transmitted to over 52 countries through the Asian Sat 5 satellite. The Kandy Dalada Maligawa, the Governing body for the perahera and the temple in which the sacred tooth relic is kept, had a live stream of the event on their official website as well as youtube and all other social media said Athukorala aiming to replicate the marketing model in Japan.

Monday, September 7, 2015

SL Tourism Competition

  • - 54 million trip advisor reviews and 23.2 million google searches last year 
  • - 20 lucky winners to get a18 plus days holiday in Sri Lanka

 “Given the research insights that 23.2 million google searched Sri Lanka Tourism and 54 million trip advised, Sri Lanka tourism gives an indication of the importance of online communication in the decision making process of a potential traveller” said Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Dr. Rohantha Athukorala at the launch of the global online video competition " 365 days holiday" which will avail twenty lucky winners to receive a 18 plus days all-inclusive holiday in Sri Lanka. The power of armature videos hosted on the internet has now become a major influence for traveller behavior was the insight that led Sri Lanka Tourism for launching the global video competition under the theme " 365 days holiday in Sri Lanka".  The competition will feature the best 20 entries that are hosted will receive a fully expense paid vacation of 18 plus day holiday in Sri Lanka. This complimentary holiday package includes a business class return ticket, hotel stay with free entry to all key cultural and heritage sites sponsored by Sri Lanka Tourism. Sri Lanka was recently ranked as a top 22 destinations to visit in 2015 by respected US power media New York Times in its comprehensive list of top 52 places to go in 2015 . The list comprises of top and most popular cities and countries around the globe. New York Times have identified Sri Lanka as a country which is genuinely stable and also a nation which has the best diversity of attractions around the works that can be experienced in the shortest possible times which happens to be the DNA of Sri Lanka voiced Dr.Athukorala.  However New York Times points out on the luxurious accommodation facilities of Sri Lanka as well as the creativity of these facilities needs stronger communication which have the logic for the launch of global on line video competition. The competition will have a four month entry duration from September to December 2015 with the winners invited to the country during the period February- June 2016 said the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Assistant Director Harshika Abeynayake.    Sri Lanka's commercial capital Colombo, was earlier ranked the highest growth city on tourist arrivals by Master Card Traveller. This accolade beats China's emerging city Chengdu to second place whilst visitor arrivals crossed a million guests by the end of July at a growth of 32.1%.  As at end July 2015, in just four months, the sector crossed the 1 billion dollar earnings said Chairman Athukorala. We must now drive on- line presence and the "365 day holiday" promotion is only the beginning of the game plan he said.

Sri Lanka Tourism, Tea board and Sri Lankan Airlines quest for Guinness Record

Sri Lanka Tourism, Tea board and Sri Lankan Airlines quest for Guinness Record         

  •  - 3000 kilograms of black tea to be plucked            
  • - 35,000 cups of tea to be served at Esala Perahera            
  • - Guinness Record attempt to be featured at global travel fairs           
  • - New Global advertising campaign in the making

                 In the unique partnership between the key agencies that take Sri Lanka to the world- tourism, tea and Sri Lankan will spruce the current $61 billion dollar nation brand to achieve the targeted $80 billion dollars. The event grounded on the concept of Ceylon Tea will show case to the world on all media (traditional and Online) the Guinness Record initiative by plucking 3000 kilograms of tea at Pedro Estate with the help of 200 foreigners and serving 35,000 cups of tea at the Esala Perahera which will take Sri Lanka into the Global map across the world said Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Rohantha Athukorala. This must be supported by the launch of the global branding and promotions campaign on tourism after a lapse of 6 years which is now at 'short list' stage with where top seven global advertising agencies are in the running he emphasized. Sri Lanka Tourism will cross $3 billion dollar net receipts in 2015 and the new advertising campaign will help the Sri Lanka positioning on the proposition of the DNA - diversity, compactness and Authencity which will help the overall objective of attracting the $250 dollar tourists rather than just going after arrivals said Athukorala. The private sector partners to the Guinness record bid are Basilur the global tea brand and household business brand Maliban that will be the new ethos of the government on the Private-Public -People partnership to building brand Sri Lanka he voiced.  Research indicate that when a countries brand value pegs up the quality of investments increase whilst the quality of tourists that it can attract also increase whilst the export market country mix also tends change which is what Sri Lanka needs to do said Athukorala. At the World’s Largest Tea Party Sri Lanka tourism will invitee foreign guests from the key countries of India, china, UK, Germany, Italy, Russia, Middle East, Australian, Scandinavia and United States to be part of the event which will be linked to social media that takes the story to the key markets so that we get on the " news" of the world. Earlier this month Sri Lanka Tourism launched a unique global competition where the best twenty online videos submitted will get a 365 day holiday whilst a weekly direct mail themed ' message in a bottle" has been touching the key global media, designation marketing companies( DMC's) around the world. In the key markets we do focussed below the activations by way of Road Shows branded “One Island, thousand treasures" whilst also being in person with the private sector in the key travel and trade fairs globally under the theme " 8 wonderful experiences in 8 wonderful days" said Athukorala. We will extend the Guinness Record to the world by way of the ' ceylon tea boutique' concept which is in every exhibition that we take part globally which costs us over a billion rupees annually he said. Sri Lanka has garnered in over a million tourists in just seven months at a growth of 16.8% as at end July 2015 and July spiked to a 31.2% growth in visitors which was interesting given that China became the top source market said Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau in the news release. However, the dominance of the informal sector accounting for 49% of the arrivals which is approximately 7.3 million room nights must be addressed as we are launching a 200 million digital marketing campaign with the best online organizations that must help the formal sector that support SLTPB with the funding required for aggressive marketing commented Chairman Athukorala.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Five Aitken Spence Hotels Enter TripAdvisor Hall of Fame

Five Aitken Spence properties from Sri Lanka and the Maldives have entered the prestigious TripAdvisor Hall of Fame having being recognized for its consistent high performance in customer reviews. The world’s largest travel site recognized Adaaran Prestige Vadoo, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas, Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, Heritance Kandalama and Heritance Tea Factory for obtaining the Certificate of Excellence for the fifth consecutive year.
Nine Aitken Spence Resorts received the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. The Certificate of Excellence is awarded to properties that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on the travel review site. In addition to the hotels recognized in the Hall of Fame, Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, Adaaran Club Rannalhi, Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara were awarded Certificates of Excellence for its ability to continuously deliver on a superior customer service experience.  "We have always strived for excellence and have nurtured a reputation of exceeding guest expectations.
 The recognition received by the resorts bear testimony to the exceptional service and memorable experiences that guests receive from our iconic properties. I would like to congratulate the resorts on their achievement and encourage them to maintain the standards set and continue to exceed expectations" said, Mr. Susith Jayawickrama, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels.  TripAdvisor enables travelers to plan and book the perfect trip and offers advice from millions of travelers and a wide variety of travel choices. The site’s potential reach is 340 million unique monthly visitors and more than 225 million reviews and opinions covering more than 4.9 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions.  Aitken Spence Hotels manage a portfolio of hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Oman. Its premier brand in Sri Lanka, Heritance Hotels & Resorts, operates a portfolio of five unique properties in scenic locations across the island while its award winning properties in the Maldives operate under the brand Adaaran Resorts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Esala Festival

Esala Perahera festival is as colourful as the story of its origins. Taking place in August on the ten days leading up to the full moon, the time-honoured elephant parade takes place in Kandy, the Sri Lankan centre of Buddhism. For more than 400 years, the city's Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth Relic) has housed the revered dentistry. A replica casket is used in the parades, but that doesn't stop thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from breaking out their drums, dancing shoes, whips and fire.

This spectacle can be seen, by torchlight, at the nightly elephant processions, which are actually formed of five separate parades. In the 18th century, the South Indian Nyakar dynasty introduced a Hindu element to proceedings, and four of the parades start at temples dedicated to the religion's principle deities, Vishnu, Natha, Kataragama and Pattini. The Hindu hoe-downs spill into the main parade, where the Jumbo of honour is the mighty tusker from Dalada Maligawa, carrying the golden casket. All the elephants are dressed up to the nines, clad from trunk to toe in silk costumes, glittering thread and embroidered cloth, even chains of fairy lights.
Between the elephants, the religious participants perform all kinds of devotional acts to the booming drums. Some show their faith by walking barefoot or, in the case of the Hindus, with spikes in their backs. The procession is headed by banner carriers and whip crackers, whose weapons clear the path of both evil spirits and the crush of humanity. Kandy is the country's main arts centre and the city's performers add to the chaos. Acrobatic fire performers juggle, twirl and eat oily flames, their glow reflected by palanquins teetering on elephant back.The most riotous parade happens on the last night. The following morning, preparations for next year are already underway at the 'water cutting' ceremony. A religious official draws a sword through the Mahaweli Ganga river, in a ritual designed to divide pure and impure and ensure a plentiful supply of water. Some water is kept and used in the next opening ceremony, when breadfruit trees are planted outside the temples.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The blues whales and dolphins are back in Nilaweli beach

Since the lost whales of Trincomalee were rediscovered in 2010, by a team of naturalists at ‘Cinnamon Nature Trails', numerous sightings of blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins have taken place making the season up in the East a rewarding experience. The great blue off the coast of Trincomalee seems to be a popular playground for these marvellous marine mammals during March through April each year. As in previous years, the Cinnamon Nature Trails team is ready to take guests on a voyage that will almost guarantee a sighting of Whales and Dolphins including a glimpse of a super pod of Sperm whales often seen in Trinco during this period. With all safety measures in place and a crew well experienced to make your cruise pleasurable. The Eastern whale watch is set to begin shortly off the city by the sea. Head of Eco Tourism for John Keells Resorts Chitral Jayatilake mentioned that all guests who will flock to Trinco this season for whale watching are welcome to submit tale fluke images for an ongoing Blue whale ID programme, while clear images once selected will be uploaded to a Flickr site with picture credit. Chaaya Blu Trincomalee is situated just a few kilometres off Trincomalee and was built to reflect a retro chic design. Its strategic location gives guests the opportunity to experience these large marine mammals and the acrobatic spin of Dolphins just a few minutes away from the resort, or perhaps if one is lucky enough just at the very shores of the sea at Chaaya Blu. A selection of Beach Chalets, Superior rooms and two Suites make up a total of 81 rooms, with two restaurants; one specialized in seafood and two bars which cater to your every whim. 

Sri Lanka Tourism to take Tea theme at World Travel Mart London 2015

The leading travel industry event staged annually in London- World Travel Mart that attracts around fifty thousand tourism professionals which recorded an $244 million for the British economy and deal making at $2.5 billion dollars plus globally, Sri Lanka tourism together with the private sector will be making a strong statement given the 16.8% cumulative growth and 31.2% growth in visitor arrivals in July said Dr. Rohantha Athukorala. Sri Lanka Tourism Pavilion taking a cutting edge position of a Tea theme that will include the launch of Loolkadura- where the 1st tea bush was planted by James Taylor and Dabatenna estate of Lipton fame will be announced as World Heritage sites submissions for UNESCO certification apart from show casing the 8 wonderful experiences in 8 wonderful days he said.  The Guinness Record bid of plucking 1000kg by amateurs in Nuwara Eliya and serving 35000 cups of tea at the Esala Perahera in partnership between Sri Lankan airlines, Sri Lanka tea board and APOT will add to the statement we will make from the Sri Lanka tourism Pavilion said Market Head for UK Chameera Peiris. Given the strong imagery of Ceylon tea associated with a typical British this cutting edge theme will help attract Guests from Royalty, Chairmen of top global tea houses that will set the stage for the leading tour operators and destination marketing companies to come to our Pavilion he said.  We must find creative ways to make Sri Lanka Tourism cut through the aggressive competition apart from the Beaches that we are known for as we are up against stiff completion given that a typical British traveller googles island nations like North Atoll Male, Seashells as per the latest consumer insights of Trip Advisor. We must attract the top spending potentials British traveller as even now almost 22% of the revenue from tourism come from UK said Peiris. As at July Sri Lanka has attracted 93,223 visitors at a growth of 12.6% and we are targeting two hundred thousand guests which accounts for higher revenue per traveller than any other destination he said. Sri Lanka Tourism took a wild life theme at the Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) this year in Dubai and a Festival- Esala Perahera theme at KOTFA- Seoul, Korea.  Last edition of WTM recorded 51,500 participants with business deals worth more than £2.5 billion were triggered by the event whilst £244,340,223 million has been pumped into the economy through money spent on hotels, restaurants, flights and other discretionary spend by those visiting England’s capital city which beats the acclaimed London Fashion week said the Tourism a Promotions Bureau communique. The British Fashion Council’s London Fashion Week generates around £100 million for the London economy while hosting of seven games at the Rugby World Cup will generate £316 million to the economy.  WTM - London will showcasing around 200 countries and  5,000 exhibitors which gives indicates the entrenched competition that exists in the market so we must find unique ways to bring out the DNA of the country- Diversity, Authenticity and Compactness said Chairman Dr Athukorala. - See more at:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mihin Lanka to expand operations to Kolkata.

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Mihin Lanka, Sri Lanka’s national low-cost carrier will expand its operations to Kolkata, India with effect from 15 June 2015. The strategic expansion of Mihin Lanka’s network is in line with its five-year business plan to expand its route network. The airline introduced an Airbus A319 to its fleet in March 2015, and the new aircraft will service Kolkata and will also support increasing frequencies to some of the airline key routes - Dhaka, Madurai, Lahore, Gaya and Varanasi. Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal and is the commercial, cultural and educational centre of East India.  Commenting on the expansion, Rohana Perera, Head of Commercial, Mihin Lanka stated, “Mihin Lanka is extremely proud to expand our network and flight operations to Kolkata, an important destination in India. Over the next five-years, Mihin Lanka with its code share partner SriLankan Airlines, is embarking on an aggressive strategy to expand its network in the region and provide seamless connectivity to rest of the world. India is one of the top emerging countries in the world and by 2023 the country is forecasted to become the second largest economy in the world in terms of GDP. With fast economic growth, India as a country also offers significant opportunities for air travel growth. Adding strategic destinations to our network over the next few years, will play a crucial role in helping us to achieve our targets.  By expanding our network to Kolkata, we are strengthening our product offering and providing our passengers with added convenience and value. We are also playing a crucial role in supporting regional connectivity as well as the growth of tourism and trade in the region.”  With the expansion of its network to Kolkata, Mihin Lanka is providing passengers with access to an exciting new destination. With a GDP of USD 29 billion, Kolkata has the third largest economy in India after Mumbai and Delhi. The city is also a centre for many thriving industries such as steel, mining, cement; pharmaceuticals, food processing, agriculture, textiles and jute which are key sectors that are driving economic growth. Being one of the most important financial hubs of East and North-East India, Kolkata is home to the Kolkata Stock Exchange and is a thriving commercial hub. India as a nation is experiencing rapid economic growth and is one of the top emerging countries in the world. As a destination,  Kolkata offers significant potential for both Mihin Lanka and SriLankan Airlines. With over 10 million passenger movements annually, Kolkata Airport is the fifth busiest airport in India.  As the former capital city of India, Kolkata is considered the birthplace of modern Indian literary, artistic and scholastic thought. The city attracts many tourists each year due to its rich cultural heritage, eye-catching architecture and historical attractions. Kolkata is also home to numerous museums and also houses the world’s largest collection of Buddhist artefacts.  Ticket sales to Kolkata will commence from 1 April 2015 onwards and special promotions will take place during the upcoming Avurudu season, giving Mihin Lanka passengers the chance to fly on the inaugural flight to Kolkata. Mihin Lanka is a leading low-cost airline in South Asia that operates across many destinations in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and South East Asia. Since its launch in 2007, Mihin Lanka has come a long way, becoming one of the region’s most admired affordable travel brands. The airline strives to maintain the highest standards and is the only low-cost airline, which provides a complimentary on-board meal and a free checked-in baggage allowance.  Focused on delivering the best to its customers, Mihin Lanka continuously adapts to passenger needs, in order to further fulfill its mission of being the leading low-cost airline in the region.  For more information visit  - See more at:

Heritance Hotels Achieves Travelife Gold Award

Heritance Hotels, Sri Lanka's leading chain of resorts, owned and managed by Aitken Spence Hotels is once again in the forefront of sustainability with all hotels in its portfolio being awarded the Travelife for Hotels & Accommodations Gold award. Travelife – the international sustainability certification scheme – assesses a property’s performance in managing social, environmental and economic impacts. The Gold award achieved by Heritance Tea Factory, Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara, Heritance Kandalama and Heritance Ahungalla is a testament to the chain’s deep commitment to sustainability.  Travelife is a practical tool which assists properties to monitor and manage their social and environmental impacts. The scheme which is supported by some of the largest tour operators in the industry helps hotels cut costs and increase sales, by improved sustainability. 

To gain Travelife Gold certification the hotel must meet the 150 sustainability criteria set by the scheme. This includes environmental issues, such as minimising waste and use of energy, water and chemicals, as well as taking positive action on social issues, such as employee welfare, working with the local community, child protection and human rights. Hotels must display how they are helping to support local businesses and protect local traditions and wildlife. The Heritance Hotels portfolio underwent a stringent audit process which focussed on energy saving practices, waste management, emission and environmental sustainability principles followed by each Hotel. The audit results are scored on Bronze, Silver or Gold depending on the degree of the Hotels commitment towards the environment and locality in which it operates. Achieving Gold status is not an easy feat and it is a remarkable achievement that the entire chain achieved this accolade.  Heritance Hotels, a pioneer in practicing and promoting sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka, has taken numerous initiatives in ensuring that energy consuming assets have been managed effectively and energy conserving technology has been implemented at each resort. Heritance Ahungalla, one of Sri Lanka's leading beach resorts, was the first hotel in Sri Lanka to receive the ISO 50001:2011 certification. Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara, was the first net metered hotel in Sri Lanka and Heritance Tea Factory and Heritance Kandalama were the first in the hospitality industry to utilize a biomass gasifier as a renewable energy source. Apart from the significant systems implemented at the resorts, all resorts use Sewage Treated Plant (STP) water for irrigation and have replaced incandescent lighting with CFL and LED lights. The 7R recycling program practiced by all resorts in the chain strives for zero waste to the environment. All waste produced is recycled or disposed of with no impact to the environment in which each hotel operates. Heritance Ahungalla, Heritance Kandalama and Heritance Tea Factory have in-house green pavilions and eco centers where training is provided to guests and the community on the benefits and importance of recycling and reducing the impacts on the environment.  Heritance Kandalama has been identified as a bio diversity hot spot with surveys revealing that the  170 acres of owned and 50 acres of leased land preserved by the Hotel  has 43 species of mammals, 173 species of birds, 33 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians, 82 species of butterflies and 125 floral species including trees and climbers. Heritance Hotels is closely linked to each community it operates in with over 40% of its staff being employed from the local communities. In addition facilities such as the Arts and Crafts center at Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara are provided for local craftsmen to showcase their talents and keep traditional crafts alive. This also adds to the local economy by ways of added profits to the community and promotion of local culture. “We are extremely passionate about practicing social and environmental strategies and it is indeed motivating to be recognised for our achievements in this area. Our team constantly strives to ensure that we keep challenging ourselves and having gone through the stringent audit process it is encouraging to note that we have been benchmarked against other international star performers and have been awarded the highest accolade in the scheme”, said Mr.Susith Jayawickrama, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels.  Heritance Hotels and Resorts, the premier brand of Aitken Spence Hotels operate a portfolio of four unique properties in scenic locations across Sri Lanka. Heritance Kandalama was named by The Observer of UK as one of the “Icons of Modern Hotel Design” and Travel + Leisure calls it one of the leading green hotels of the world.  Heritance Tea Factory was voted amongst the “100 Best Places to Stay in the World” by Sunday Times UK and was nominated in the list of “Top 5 Factory Hotels in the World” by The Independent, UK. The chain of hotels has been continuously recognized as a pioneer in sustainable tourism and continuously strives to sustain and innovate processes that reduce the impact of its operation on its surroundings. - See more at: