By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s wildlife parks bring in collective revenue of approximate Rs.300 million a year which is hoped to increase within the next few years riding on the increasing tourist arrivals to the country.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry which showcased a steady climb this year, registering a 36% growth within the first seven months compared to the corresponding period in 2010 is expected to continue to reach 750,000 by the end of the year.
Marked as ‘Visit Sri Lanka year’ 2011 has seen every month of the year being categorised to promote a different product of the country.
With September being identified as the month for nature and wildlife, industry officials hopes to concentrate on the four key areas of wildlife Sri Lanka is increasingly gaining popularity for- the elephant gathering, the Sinharaja bird wave, leopards and blue whales.
Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) has on request of Sri Lanka Tourism organized four seminars on the above mentioned aspects of wildlife under a general theme ‘Sri Lanka- the ultimate island safari’ to be conducted on every Wednesday of the month. The seminars, hosted by leading wildlife enthusiasts such as Srilal Mithapala (on elephant gathering), Chitral Jayathilake and Riaz Cader on leopards, Prof. Sarath Kotagama on the bird wave and Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne is hoped to attract over 300 participants on a weekly basis. As part of the monthly campaign, SLAITO has also organized a wildlife phototherapy competition which will run throughout the month starting 1 September . It would be a virtual exhibition where participants can upload their images of wildlife to the Sri Lanka Tourism website. A winner will be chosen by a panel of judges after evaluation 30 on September. The grand finale of the program me is scheduled to be held on September 30 at Minneriya where participants will be taken on a safari around the Minneriya national park while the local travel trade personnel will have a specialised workshop on awareness creation and wildlife at Cinnamon Lodge.
A separate workshop will also be conducted for expatriates and other foreign tourists who will take part in the morning safari in the evening on Sri Lanka’s wildlife later in the day. SLAITO expects a 50-50 mixture of local and international tourists and wildlife enthusiasts to take part in the said events. Invitations have been extended to all the embassies and for foreign organisations and bodies that work closely with SLAITO.