Visitors are flocking to Sri Lanka – for tourism, business, conferences or meetings.
The island is serious in targeting tourists and business travellers to give them the ride of their lives.
Vipula Wanigasekara, who is Sri Lanka Convention Bureau chief executive officer, said international tourist arrivals showed a 4.7% increase last year, hitting the 1.1 million mark. Its MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector has shown impressive growth, too.
The increase is mainly driven by growth in the Indian and Chinese markets. The top spenders are the Chinese, the Americans and the Germans.
The country, Vipula said, is now on a firm footing to captivate visitors since their civil war ended in 2009.
After the tsunami struck in 2004, he added, there was an outpouring of sympathy from around the globe.
“There was previously a perception of fear. This is in the past now,” he said. “We have overcome the war and the tsunami.”
According to Padmi Fernando, the director of sales (corporate and MICE) of the Taj Hotels in Sri Lanka, the number of Malaysian visitors is on the rise, too.
The island reportedly has three of the finest 18-hole golf courses in Asia.
For those interested in wildlife, a visit to the Yala National Park is a must. The park is said to have the world’s highest concentration of leopards. The island is also a great place to spot blue whales. Sperm whales, killer whales and dolphins can often be seen at whale-watching trips to the southern coast of Sri Lanka, apparently.
Sri Lanka, which bills itself as the wonder of Asia, is also proud of its diversity although it is a predominantly Buddhist country. For example, there is a mosque located next to a church in Colombo on a street named Baptist Chapel Road.
Due to its diverse cultures, Sri Lanka has many public holidays. In fact, every full moon each month is also a holiday.
“Don’t ask us when we work. It’s our secret,” said tourism trainer Nuwan Sithara, with a laugh.
The trip was hosted by the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau.