More than 160 guests filled the official residence of Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya to enjoy an evening of Sri Lankan dance, music and food during a reception to boost tourism in Sri Lanka.
Hosted by Ambassador Wickramasuriya and the International Club of Washington, the evening of Sri Lankan culture follows on the heels of a tour Ambassador Wickramasuriya staged in August for 25 members of the International Club in August.
Most of those 25 each brought up to five guests to the 12 November 2010 reception to generate more US tourist interest in Sri Lanka.
Those 25 tourists, including a number of professionals, a travel writer and a Hollywood film location scout, travelled for 10 days in Sri Lanka, taking in Colombo, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the ancient city of Sigiriya, the Cave Temple of Dambulla, the old town of Galle and the sacred city of Kandy.
The travellers also visited the Yala National Park which is the second largest and most visited national park in Sri Lanka, and Minneriya National Park, where they witnessed the elephant gathering. The US tourists raved about the trip, some calling it the experience of a lifetime.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya told the group: "Tonight I am not the only Ambassador here. All of you who went on our trip in August are also now ambassadors of Sri Lanka. You experienced how warm and friendly and beautiful Sri Lanka is.
So tonight I will let you, the new ambassadors, talk about Sri Lanka."
Dillan Ariyawansa, Senior Vice President for Sri Lankan Airlines in the USA, Canada and the Caribbean also gave a presentation.
Genov Krassimir, one of the tourists, offered a slide-presentation of the August trip. Additionally, a traditional Sri Lankan dance was performed by Dashika Wijegooneratne.
The Embassy staff also showed the guests a video on the current status of Sri Lanka, including Sri Lanka's growing economy, its recent presidential and parliamentary elections and prospects for tourism and trade.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya noted that while the first "Signature Tour" in August used other commercial carriers, the next tours will use Sri Lankan Airlines.
"When we flew to Sri Lanka last August, we did not fly Sir Lankan Airlines - we gave the other carriers a chance," the Ambassador said. "But next time we're going to fly Sri Lankan. It's a great airline and you won't fly any other once you experience it."
Ambassador Wickramasuriya held the reception to attract 75 to 100 more visitors on future "Signature Tours" arranged through the embassy and travel agents. Tourism in Sri Lanka has increased dramatically in the last year, and the Sri Lankan embassy in the US has been working to increase the number of Americans who are taking part in the travel boom. Nearly all the reception guests expressed an interest in travelling to Sri Lanka in the near future.