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India maintains its position as top source market for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Tourism recently concluded the second leg of its inaugural Business Networking event for 2024 in India. The event started in Mumbai at the Sofitel BKC and concluded in Delhi at the Shangri-La. This event was a celebration of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, highlighting its resilience and growth, and aimed to strengthen ties between Sri Lanka and India.

The Mumbai was inaugurated by Harin Fernando, Minister for Tourism, Lands, Sports, and Youth Affairs, Sri Lanka. He was joined by Dr. Valsan Kumaran Vethody, the Consul General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai, Jyoti Mayal, President of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Jay Kantawala, Chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India’s West India chapter, Thisum Jayasuriya, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, and Darshana Cabraal, a Board member of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

The Delhi event was inaugurated by Hon. Shehan Semasinghe, the State Minister of Finance, along with Kshenuka Senewiratne, the High Commissioner of the High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi, Nalin Parera, Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Krishantha Fernando, General Manager of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, and Ms. Jyoti Mayal, President of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI).

Both events brought together over 300 participants in respective cities, including travel agents, industry leaders, and media representatives. The focus was on fostering stronger ties between Sri Lanka and India, paving the way for mutually beneficial partnerships in the tourism sector. The sharp increase in Indian tourists visiting Sri Lanka was cited as a primary factor driving the surge in tourist arrivals, with the number of Indian visitors more than doubling from 13,759 in January of the previous year to 34,399 in January 2024.

Reflecting on the challenges faced in the past, Minister Fernando highlighted Sri Lanka’s remarkable transformation into a middle-income nation with robust economic indicators. With tourism earnings exceeding USD 2 billion in 2023 and a surge in tourist arrivals, Sri Lanka stands as a beacon of resilience in the face of adversity, the Minister opined. ‘Our challenging goal of attracting 2.5 million tourists in 2024 has been established,’ he mentioned, expressing optimism about its achievability based on the fact that over 48,000 tourists arrived in the first six days of February, with an average of over 9000 tourist arrivals at Colombo daily,” he said.

H E Kshenuka Senewiratne, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in New Delhi, said, “I see this platform as a great opportunity for enhancing cooperation. We’ve witnessed a remarkable 103% increase in tourist arrivals from India, reflecting our strong historical ties. Recent discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the strength of our partnership. We appreciate India’s crucial support during economic challenges. Our vision is to strengthen connectivity and accelerate cooperation in tourism, power, trade, education, and skill development, demonstrating India’s lasting commitment to Sri Lanka.”

Dr. Valsan Kumaran Vethody, the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai, echoed Minister Fernando’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of people-to-people connectivity in strengthening bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and India. With tourism serving as a bridge between cultures and communities, Dr. Vethody emphasised the need for stronger collaboration in the tourism sector to fully realize the potential of this partnership, emphasising the integration of Sri Lankan tourism into the extensive Indian tourism market, which comprises approximately 2000 million tourists and holds significant economic value of approximately USD 150 billion.

Nalin Perera, Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, stated, “Tourism is our third largest revenue source, a significant achievement for our small island. Despite challenges, we’ve always bounced back. In 2022, we transitioned, and now offer more than just sun and beaches – with sports, culture, and spiritual, historical and more. India remains our top source. Our focus is also on a digital campaign to attract the Indian market and tailored made itinerary for one and all. With Indian hotel investments, we’re confident you’ll want to return.”

“As Chairman of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, I am proud to highlight the growth of our Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector. With world-class venues and increased accessibility, Sri Lanka has become a highly desirable location for corporate events and conferences. We now have nearly 100 flights per week from 9 Indian cities, making it easier than ever for businesses to choose Sri Lanka. Hosting the 3rd edition of the MICE expo in May this year further solidifies our position as a gateway to unparalleled experiences, supporting local economies and leaving a lasting impact. The expo will showcase the Southern Region’s development, including the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) and the Magam Ruhunupura International Conference Centre (MRICC), establishing the region as a dynamic hub for international events.” Thisum Jayasuriya, Chairman, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau.

While speaking seamless travel experience, Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) said’ “Travel agents are the backbone of promoting Sri Lanka as the ideal destination for Indian tourists. Through personalized service and tailored experiences, we create unforgettable journeys that enhance the overall visitor experience. Our role is pivotal in ensuring the sustainability and growth of Sri Lanka’s vibrant tourism industry.”

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