From left: Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL) President Trevor Rajaratnam, UFTAA President Sunil Kumar Rumalla, SLTDA and SLTPB Chairman Kishu Gomes, Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, SLTPB Managing Director Johanne Jayaratne and SLTDA Director General Upali Ratnayake
Pic by Samantha Perera
By Nishel Fernando
With a view of promoting Sri Lanka as a safe destination, the Universal Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA) announced that the global body would hold its Mid-Year Forum in Sri Lanka within next two months, with participation of 100 tourism leaders and experts from 30 countries.
“The UFTAA board member, Trevor Rajaratnam appealed that we must try and look at Sri Lanka as a destination for our next immediate event which is normally held in August.
However, considering the larger interest of Sri Lanka, we should fast-track the event by a couple of months so that it could serve as a great redressal to the whole world, that a global body of tourism experts and tourism leaders are present in Sri Lanka,” UFTAA, President, Sunil Kumar Rumalla told reporters in Colombo last week.
He noted that UFTAA is committed to support Sri Lanka extensively similar to the support it extended to Turkey, by re-building the confidence concerning security in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks three years ago.
“We are very keen to see this most wonderful country to be brought back to normalcy as soon as possible,” he affirmed.
Rajaratnam who is also the President of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL) said that Emirates and SriLankan Airlines pledged their support to facilitate UFTAA Mid-Year Forum by offering concessionary rebated travel for delegates coming to Sri Lanka.
The hoteliers are also expected to offer concessionary rates for foreign delegates attending the forum.
UFTAA is also proposing to hold the forum at one of the hotels which was targeted by terrorists on Easter Sunday.
Sri Lanka’s Tourism Chief Kishu Gomes noted that the government is expecting 10,000 MICE tourists to visit the country during the rest of the year for international MICE events backed by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).
Meanwhile, Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga revealed that the government has already briefed several foreign missions in the country including German and French ambassadors on the country’s security situation with participation of senior Army Intelligence officers, as ambassadors and high commissioners play a decisive role on travel advisories.
Gomes said that the German ambassador was convinced of the safety assurance provided by the Army Intelligence Officer but had informed there were several more measures required to be taken before softening or lifting the current travel advisory.
Amaratunga also revealed that a top government delegate from France, most likely the Deputy Mayor of Paris, would visit Sri Lanka in the coming days to observe the security situation in the country.
Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff had also participated in the second meeting of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on tourism last Friday, prior to holding a security briefing for defence attaches of foreign missions in the country.
Despite somewhat contradictory statements issued by the President and Prime Minister on the security situation last week, both Gomes and Amaratunga stressed that the security forces have given their word on safety with an assurance that the terrorists are no longer in a position to carry out any coordinated attacks in the future.