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Sri Lanka develops marine and adventure tourism to attract ‘high end’ tourists

#ATMDUBAI  May 2023 Dubai UAE

Marine tourism sets sail to catch quality tourists in 2023.

Adventure tourism is also playing a role in helping Sri Lanka meet demand for segments in South Asia.

The country’s tourism sector is showing a robust generation as more westerners and middle east guests are wanting freedom to travel to exotic locations after the covid years.

Leading Sri Lankan figures, speaking at a Dubai conference, were optimistic about new dynamics in tourism.

One of the main strategies is to diversify the range of offerings and target those seeking adventurous holidays on  the exotic and tropical island that is Sri Lanka.

“We are not going to try and make Sri Lanka expensive but we want to make the island a destination of choice for  affordable luxury”, said Harin Fernando, Sri Lankan Minister of Tourism and Lands.

“We have just launched the Pekoe Trail, which is a 23-day hike through the mountains — that’s just one of the adventures we are offering,” Harin Fernando, Sri Lankan Minister of Tourism and Lands, told a conference on the second day of the Arabian Travel Market at Dubai World Trade Centre. The hike is designed to show the natural beauty and can be completed in multi segments on one vist to the island or multiple holiday dates.

“We’re also investing in luxury sailing, marine diving, mountain climbing and hiking” he told Captain Steve Holmes of Palm Sail International, at lunch after the press conference.

“Another activity we are looking to bring to Sri Lanka is ski diving.” This was featured with sky divers launching from the top of the Lotus Tower in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Visitors from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the GCC are welcome to play a key role in enjoying  the developments in Sri Lanka , the minister also added.

The Middle East market sector already knows the beauty of Sri Lanka with many local families spending 10 to 14 day vacations on the green and magnificent island.

“Initially, what we wanted were numbers, which meant quantity over quality, but now I want to see us move to quality over quantity. Now we will move to a long-term “quality” strategy for the growth of Sri Lankan Tourism.”

This high quality strategy means attracting tourists who are more likely to spend more on their family holidays.

“Previously the average spending of tourists in Sri Lanka is $200-250, my new target is to move that number to $400-500 in the next year.,” said Mr Fernando.

“We are not going to make Sri Lanka expensive, however we want to offer additional high end choices, making Sri Lanka the destination of choice when it comes to affordable luxury.”

Responding to previous years challenges

Sri Lanka experienced challenges like many other countries after the covid lock down years. In March 2023, the International Monetary Fund approved a $3 billion loan to help Sri Lanka in restructure the economy and allow the island to build a sustainable future, with tourism playing a major role in raising the profile of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan rupee has strengthened since last year to emerge as one of the world’s best-performing currency this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“I am delighted to say the Sri Lanka showed it is robust and resilient nature to have bounced back from where we were a year ago,” said Mr Fernando. The future for Sri Lanka is bright and cheerful.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the UAE said being a year-round destination makes it attractive to a visitor from the Middle East, where temperatures tend to soar during the summer months, whilst Sri Lanka offers a tropical climate year round in awesome greenery. “After months of turbulent times, Sri Lankan tourism is stronger and better than ever,” said Udaya Indrarathna at the event.

“We have a lot of unique experiences to offer the Middle Eastern traveller. “Sri Lanka is a year-round destination with pristine beaches and amazing weather.

“The country is a biodiversity hotspot with large forest coverage and a rich wildlife. It also boasts a unique cultural heritage.

Hoteliers Thoughts

Hoteliers at the ATM event believe that Sri Lanka is resurgent because of the diversification it offers tourists.

“The complexion of tourism in Sri Lanka is changing,” said Suresh Rajendra, president of leisure for the John Keels Group, the parent company of Cinnamon Hotels. “The typical tourism in Sri Lanka has been beach stays and tours based on the culture and the hill country.

“That’s changing and we are seeing Colombo starting to attract the conference market which is bringing in more visitors from India and China.”

The future is bright … the future is Sri Lanka