‘India, our largest source market for MICE travel’

The primary objective of Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) is to promote Sri Lanka as a venue for International and Regional Meetings, Incentive Travel, Congress and Exhibitions destination. Susmita Ghosh, Editor-in-Chief, Netpal Travel interacted with Kumar De Silva, Chairman, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau in Delhi at BLTM (Business, MICE & Leisure Travel Mart) 2019, sharing views on how growing cooperation exists between India and Sri Lanka, the two neighbouring countries.

  • How your participation in BLTM is helpful?

We are taking part in BLTM for the third time and found it to be an excellent platform for us. Here we could do very serious business in Meetings, Incentives Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) space and we have truly grown through this event since last 3 years.
All the 10 participants from Sri Lanka here are having precious meetings for last two days. As SATTE and BLTM have overlapped for a day, we are here at the back of SATTE. The specific area of business we are looking at – all the people are here, meeting us and are seriously looking at promoting Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been ranked top country for travel in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

  • What’s your USP? Any other unique arenas have you introduced recently?

Well, the authenticity and the diversity that Sri Lanka offers, it can never be enough for someone to travel once – whether an individual tourist or MICE travellers. There have been some traditional areas covered by the popular cities like Colombo Negombo, Kandy so on and so forth. Since the entire country has adventure tourism, various culinary experiences – all are in new horizon. We are already suggesting to the people who have been working in our market to start discussing with the DMCs and begin booking few new horizons.

  • Explain how your marketing strategies and policies help create overall awareness?

On November, 2018, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) launched its new “So Sri Lanka” tagline for the tourism industry. Unveiled at London’s World Travel Market 2018, the slogan aims to capture the diversity, richness and authenticity of Sri Lanka. That is being the new positioning that Srilanka is working on…

  • Do you arrange travel trade FAMS to create awareness among them?

Yes, we do FAM trips in different locations. We do expand the understanding of the products that Srilanka has to offer, thereby support and sponsor FAMS.

We organise Road shows outside Sri Lanka. We have plans to organise it in Kolkata and then to Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore this year.

India is our biggest and largest tourist source market, hence constantly looking at it. We have 150 flights a week that connects Sri Lanka directly and that’s very important aspect for us.

  • How was your tourist business graph in 2018?

As per the latest tourism data, nearly 20 percent of all tourists that came to Sri Lanka in 2018 originated from India. Next preference is from China, UK, Germany, France, and USA, who extends their travel from India.

In terms of numbers, 424,887 Indians visited Sri Lanka in 2018. This is the highest ever number of Indian nationals to have visited Sri Lanka in a calendar year. This year we are looking at 1 million Indians as our Honourable Minister has fixed a target for us.

  • Do you face any challenges in promoting Sri Lanka in MICE sector? If any how do you overcome them?

As we have friendly relation for many years and very closely culturally-knitted we don’t face massive challenges to promote tourism from India. Since we have various optimistic aspects – it depends on the market, simplicity and the understanding, very high developed visa process and extremely short flight duration. Above all most of the cities have direct flights, helps weekends visit as well.

Our High Commissioner is organising a Forum with Indian tourism bodies and Sri Lankan tourism experts to find out solutions on any areas we may have bottlenecks. Initiative is taken to promote not in one direction but to create bilateral relation stronger.

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