By Sanath Weerasuriya
The curtain rises at the World Travel Mart in London yesterday with a new hope for Sri Lanka Tourism to go beyond its target of 800,000 tourist arrivals to the country by the end of this year.
The business for the Sri Lanka Tourism at the modern architecturally designed Sri Lanka pavilion was declared open by Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK Dr. Chris Nonis.
Along with him, SriLanakn Airline Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe, President of THASL Anura Lokuhetty, President of SLIATO Nilmin Nanayakkara, Chairman PATA Hiran Cooray, tourism veteran Prema Cooray, Sanjika Perera of Sri Lanka Tourism UK Office and other distinguish industry members graced the opening ceremony at WTM this year.
Derana Miss Sri Lanka 2011 Pushpika Sandamali de Silva, the country’s contender for Miss World 2011, was the main attraction at the Sri Lanka Pavilion at the opening day.
Dr. Noni said, UK being number two in tourists arrival to Sri Lanka, promoting Sri Lanka among common British would boost not only economical gains in Sri Lanka but will definitely have a major impact on reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Nonis said, “Tourism is the best answer and the strongest weapon to fight to all negative and non-realistic publicity. We always encourage more people to visit Sri Lanka and to see their own eyes the development and the reconciliation process. This is very much in progress and the returnees are the best ambassadors to their own country.”
He also stressed the point that the Diaspora should get involved in greater manner with this programme, adding, “They should be the main target of Visit Sri Lanka. This is what I want promote and I think Sri Lanka Tourism is doing a great job towards achieving this goal. We all know that Sri Lanka offers a myriad of opportunities as a tourism product and occupies a unique geographic location in the cross road between East and West endowed with heritage, scenic cultural and natural diversity non can match anywhere in the world. But the most important thing is to get the correct market to achieve our goal.”
World Travel Mart this year recorded the highest participating travel event in UK with more than attracting more than 6700 exhibitors from over 210 countries, creating unparalleled opportunities for buyers and sellers to identify new markets and learn about the latest trends and developments.
Nearly 100 member Sri Lanka delegation representing 29 destination management companies and 22 hotel sector taking part in this year’s WTM in London. Apart from the economic crisis in Europe, British tourists are continued to visit Sri Lanka.
Dr. Nonis explained, “This shows the faith they have kept with the country has not change despite the negative publicity. The percentage of this category has increased since lately and I am very optimistic by next year all will be in favour of Sri Lanka. The best example is agreeing to have Commonwealth Head of State Meeting in Sri Lanka in 2013. I am sure we will not get a better platform to display the development in Sri Lanka.”