Day in and day out, Sri Lanka aims to please, invigorating travellers with its rich culture and unlimited offering. Aleksandra Wood discovers the latest and greatest from this animated destination.
Sri Lanka, South Asia’s untainted gem and glorious cultural hub, formerly known as the Dominion of Ceylon, is home to numerous ethnicities, religions and languages.
Blessed by mother nature, the country is a divine realm of immense biodiversity, stunning fortresses, national parks and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, all complemented by its soul-warming tropical climate.
And snatching the crown for its congeniality is, of course, Sri Lanka’s abundant tourism industry, which is effortlessly maintaining its position among the elite travel destinations of the world.
One might reflect upon why the Sri Lankan tourism industry’s competitive stride remains unbreakable, especially as global competition is so fierce nowadays. According to director of sales and marketing, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, Padmi Fernando, Sri Lanka’s ability to deliver authentic local experiences is essentially its most notable strength: “Local experiences and personalised service is key. I believe travellers coming to Sri Lanka seek that taste of culture and sense of place.”
Echoing this sentiment was founder and consultant, Genesis Global Consulting, Mario Stubbs – a consultant for the KK Collection’s Kahanda Kanda, Galle and KK Beach, Galle, who said: “[Sri Lanka] has not only grown as a tourist destination but also as a business hub over the years. This has brought in various segments of tourists which have been catered to with tailored product offerings.”
Indeed, Sri Lanka has seen a great deal of markets traverse its charming cities and towns, as recent statistics released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority revealed. January was a fantastic start to the year, with the total number of international tourist arrivals reaching 246,972, an impressive 12.6 per cent jump on the arrival numbers recorded during the first month of 2017. Emerging as a top market for the month was Western Europe, with an impressive 83,324 arrivals, followed by South Asia (54,815), East Asia (41,462), Eastern Europe (30,550) and the Middle East (11,199). The South Asian and Middle Eastern markets brought forth the most notable growth during the month, rising by 32.2 per cent and 25.2 per cent respectively, in comparison to January 2017.
Meanwhile, in the month of February, the island nation welcomed a total of 235,618 international visitors, once again indicating a notable growth of 19.3 per cent in comparison to the same month last year. Europe was the top region in terms of arrivals in February, accounting for 52 per cent of visitors, followed by Asia-Pacific with 41 per cent.
A WEALTH OF DEVELOPMENTS
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is ever blossoming, with hospitality and infrastructure developments underway left, right and centre.
The island’s hospitality scene is readying itself for momentous expansion, with international brands especially keen on raising their flags in this fruitful market.
Mövenpick Hotel Colombo’s Fernando elaborated on this: “The hotel industry has been fast paced, especially during recent years, with many international brands opening up and some due to open in the future. Mövenpick Hotel Colombo was the first five-star property to open in the city after 25 years, and we are very proud of this.”
And as revealed by Stubbs, the luxury segment is also ruffling its colourful feathers with pride this year: “We are in the luxury boutique space and, regardless of the increase in budget travel globally, we have seen a steady rise in the luxury travel segment with a healthy growth trajectory in 2018.
“The expansion of the KK Collection portfolio, from its flagship property Kahanda Kanda, Galle to opening its second property, KK Beach, Galle, has definitely opened doors for the customer looking for unique products. We intend on expanding in the future with more unique properties in various locations,” he further noted.
And speaking of unique, once dubbed the Cinnamon Island by its conquerors, Sri Lanka’s exotic cuisine bursting with a myriad of flavours instantly comes to mind. The country is well aware of its culinary strengths and is ever-ready to further tap into this segment.
“Leading up to last year, there has been a continuous growth in the number of F&B outlets in Colombo, where travellers have had more dining options,” said general manager, The Galle Face Hotel, Deni Ohlsen-Dukic. “An increased focus on gastronomy in general, along with respecting and demonstrating the importance of local cuisine, has become more widespread. Authentic local food has always been well received by visitors.”
With this new focus, the property welcomed a new executive chef this year, Chef Saman Jayawardena, in a bid to achieve further gastronomical distinction within the industry.
Also on the country’s extensive list of developments is infrastructure, and more notably, roadworks, which aim to further accommodate Sri Lanka’s booming tourism industry. Ohlsen-Dukic told TTG: “Infrastructure and transportation have seen major breakthroughs in the last few years. Several expressways have been built from the international airport and another major route, from Colombo through to the southern coastal belt of the island.”
These developments are warmly welcomed by global travellers, making it all the more convenient for them to explore the verdant island.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s transportation hubs, including airports and marine ports, are continuing with upgrades and expansion.
Stubbs explained that the further development of ports and airports, commissioned by strategic partner countries, grants insight on how Sri Lanka will reach higher targets for the market share globally.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, hospitality entities are prepared to tackle challenges head on, having already introduced a number of internal changes to ameliorate their offering and attract a diverse crowd to their properties.
The Galle Face Hotel is practicing its environmental consciousness, dedicating the past year to eco-friendly tourism and establishing a sustainability committee that initiates practices accordingly. But not only this; speaking of the hotel’s next move, Ohlsen- Dukic declared: “2018 is a year with new additions, such as The Galle Face Hotel Spa by L’Occitane. The spa launched early this year and has strengthened the overall outlook of the hotel and the industry. Furthermore, the hotel is in the process of adding new dining experiences, promotions and entertainment.”
And concluding on the same note was Fernando of Mövenpick Hotel Colombo: “2018 has a lot in store for us, as we are introducing more MICE concepts, targeting not just the local corporate market but also markets regionally. Colombo has a lot to offer and we would like to maximise on this as a destination overall. Brand new F&B concepts will be introduced together with unique promotions, and we are also now known as the ideal location for intimate weddings.”
The future is shining bright for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, what with its growing visitor numbers, noteworthy developments and dedicated hoteliers. The spirited island is constantly proving its leadership, as the rest of the world patiently awaits its next big move.