By PMA RASHEED
3 May 2011, The Gulf Today
The Sri Lankan missions in the UAE aim at projecting the island as a tranquil holiday destination, in the post-LTTE era in the pearl of Indian Ocean.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Dubai have set up their national pavilion at the region’s pioneer tourism show Arabian Travel Market 2011 being staged at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 2 to 5.
Sri Lanka has been participating at the past editions of the ATM, and this year the country pavilion has hosted 35 Sri Lankan companies.
Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the UAE, said at a press conference on the sidelines of the ATM on Monday, “After eradicating the ethnic terrorism from the soil and the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka in 2009, the island has become a preferred destination in Asia and attracts a huge number of visitors from Europe, America and the Middle Eastern countries.”
“The target set by the Sri Lankan tourism authorities for the year 2010 had already exceeded and we will receive more than 800,000 tourists the current year,” he added.
“The promotion titled “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” has set up facilities for a million travelers to explore the island’s unique nature, wildlife, scintillating beaches, historical wonders, the peaceful atmosphere and the pleasant hospitality culture of the people,” noted Wijesinghe.
According to MM Abdul Raheem, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Dubai, Sri Lankan tourism has been surging ahead with an increase in arrivals from several global markets, with a steady growth noted from the Middle East region.
“The first quarter of 2011 has shown an increase of 22.9 per cent in arrivals from the region. In 2010, we saw a 51.5 per cent increase from the ME with the highest arrivals from the UAE, indicating a 65 per cent growth. The second highest was from Saudi Arabia and Israel,” he pointed out.
Malraj B Kiriella, Acting Managing Director of Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau, said the target in the number of tourists for the year 2015 is 2.5 million and it’s 5 million by the year 2020.
“Infrastructure development is ongoing and with the re-introduction of the sea plane operations as well as the executive helicopter services, getting from the airport to a secluded hide-way is convenient and economical,” he elaborated.
“When it comes to the tourists from the Middle East region, the cuisine is very important aspect of serving this market. Halal certification is ensured for the products used to prepare the cuisine for our guests from the Middle East region,” he concluded.