Monday, 26 April 2010

Sri Lanka’s tourism economy enjoys unprecedented boom

Sri Lanka’s tourism economy has recovered so quickly from last year’s civil war that the island is expected to shortly run out of hotel capacity as it experiences an unprecedented boom.

Tourism arrives have risen for 10 consecutive months and were up 50 per cent in March, compared to the same period last ye

Indian tourists took the top slot with 8,607 visiting Sri Lanka, with tourists from the United Kingdom (8,559) and Germany (5,305) following. With the increase in operations of the low cost carrier, Air Asia, arrivals from Malaysia to saw a healthy increase.

Dilip Mudadeniya, Director General Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, said that this healthy trend would continue in the future too. “This positive sentiment is due to peace and the removal of travel advisories and we expect this healthy trend to continue,” he said.

But according to Ajit Gunawardene, chief executive of John Keells, Sri Lanka’s largest hotel group, if the tourism economy continues to grow at such rates there will be an occupancy shortage within two years.

Sri Lanka’s tourist infrastructure can handle up to 800,000 visitors a year, comfortably meeting expected demand this year of 500,000.

However within the next two years, visitors arrivals are expected to double and then double again two years later to 2 million. He suggests that unless the country embarks on a hotel construction boom it will fail to meet demand.

“This gives you an indication of the type of momentum we want to maintain,” Mr Gunawardene said.

He said John Keells had begun renovating hotels and building more to meet the tourism boom.

It is currently upgrading its large hotel in Colombo, overhauling one in Trincomalee in the war-torn east and building tourist accommodation in the south.

John Keells also has a firm eye on the planned expansion of Colombo’s port, which is strategically placed on shipping lanes between Europe, the Middle East and China.

The group is expected to bid with its partner Denmark’s Maersk for an additional terminal, which would make Colombo the largest port in south Asia.

Bookmark and Share

Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Lures Investments After Defeat of Rebels

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula, a former stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the country’s north, is attracting investments by Indian companies in construction and agriculture after the defeat of the separatists, an industry official said.

As many as 10 Indian companies have this month expressed interest to set up factories for food processing, plastics and glass recycling, garments and ready-mix concrete, Kanagasabai Poornachandran, president of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a telephone interview today from his office in Jaffna city.

The end of the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka has encouraged Indian Oil Corp. and Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s biggest state-run refiner and largest mobile-phone operator respectively, to expand in the island nation. Sri Lanka could benefit from its proximity to India just as Hong Kong profits from being a trade hub to China, HSBC Private Bank said after the war ended in May last year.

“We have great expectations for investments now that we are a peaceful land,” Poornachandran said. He did not reveal the names of Indian companies investing in Jaffna or the size of their investments.

Indian Investments

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ended the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s struggle for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in May last year, is counting on Indian companies to take the lead in investing in Sri Lanka as he tries to improve people’s livelihood.

Sri Lanka lies 31 kilometers (19 miles) south east of India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy after China.

The LTTE held the Elephant Pass, a causeway connecting Jaffna peninsula to the Sri Lankan mainland, since 2000. The group also controlled the A-9 highway, linking Jaffna to the south, forcing the government to supply weapons and food to soldiers and civilians in the Jaffna city by air and sea.

The army captured the pass and road in early 2009 as it pushed the Tamil Tigers toward the northeastern coast before finally eliminating them.

Sri Lanka’s $41 billion economy may grow 6.5 percent in 2010, the fastest pace in three years, led by construction, higher farm output and tourism, the central bank estimates.

Poornachandran said government programs to rebuild transport networks and provide concessionary loans to promote exports has spurred cultivation and fishing around Jaffna and encouraged investments.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bernard Cribbins's heaven on earth: Sri Lanka

Bernard Cribbins loves Sri Lanka for its superb weather, great food and welcoming people.
My wife and I had a marvellous holiday in Sri Lanka. A friend had raved about it; we went – and had the time of our lives.

Our pal suggested we base ourselves at a guesthouse near Mount Levinia, near Colombo, which was very comfortable, but if you have deep pockets, the somewhat swankier Mount Lavinia Hotel (0094 11 271 1711; – home to the colonial-style Governor's restaurant – might be to your liking.
One of the first things we did was to visit Polonnaruwa, where you'll find the Gal Vihara, which has a shrine to the four images of the Buddha, carved into the face of a granite rock.
We also travelled to Yala National Park, at the southern end of the island, which was quite an experience. We saw a leopard walk across the road in front of our jeep and then we turned a corner to see the large backside of an elephant walking away from us 20 yards ahead.
My wife and I were holding our breath as the driver followed him slowly at a short distance. And then suddenly this bloody great thing whipped around as quick as a cat and charged, coming to a stop 10 feet in front of us. It frightened the life out of us and the animal's eyes seemed to say: "You don't follow me – you go the other way!" Then he turned around and went off.
Afterwards our driver said to us with a smile: "If you want, I can get him to do it again."
My wife replied gently but firmly: "Thanks, but no thanks."
The country's wildlife is extraordinary, and we also saw peacocks and other jungle birds with the most extraordinary colouring.
I also loved the Sri Lankan food – all that fragrant curry, none of which was too hot. I'd recommend the curried seer fish. The fruit was amazing, too.
We spent a month on the island and it's probably the best holiday I've ever had: the weather was superb, the food great and the people so welcoming. A word of warning, though. One night there was a great electrical storm – which I watched from outdoors. When I got back inside, I discovered I'd been unlucky enough to be bitten 83 times (I counted), so take some mosquito repellent!

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sri Lanka becoming tourist hotspot

The island destination of Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly popular as a tourism destination, it has been revealed.
According to new figures, 52,000 people visited the nation last month, representing a year-on-year rise of 53.7 per cent.

The country''s tourism board suggested that part of its popularity could be down to the fact that it features a wealth of attractions in an area no larger than Ireland.
Sri Lanka Tourism marketing manager for the UK and Ireland Nabeel Shariff explained that visitors who head inland away from the famous beaches are likely to find several different worlds.
He recommended that those heading to the north of the island visit the ancient capital cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, which both "provide a step back into ancient times".
Meanwhile, Lion Rock should be top of a list of visitors'' priorities, as the "mystical story of Sigirya leaves one in awe of ancient engineering", Mr Shariff said.

Bookmark and Share

Plenty to see while teaching English in Sri Lanka

When enjoying time outside of the classroom, those teaching English in Sri Lanka may want to pay a visit to the Yala national park, which is home to some wonderful wildlife, it has been claimed.

Nabeel Shariff, UK and Ireland marketing manager for Sri Lanka Tourism, states that visitors will see wonderful creatures – such as leopards – along with examples of the country’s history by going out and exploring.

A visit to the Temple of the Tooth and the plantations of the hill country are a must, he says, adding that there are many remnants of British colonialism which provide a unique feeling of nostalgia.

After this, those teaching English in Sri Lanka should explore more before heading back home, Mr Nabeel states.

"Detour via Yala national park, home to the highest density of leopards in the world and journey back to the capital along the south coast road, passing Galle and its Dutch fortification," he says.

According to Lonely Planet, a visit to Dambulla is a must, with the area home to a selection of cave temples.