By Zahara Zuhair
With the aim of bringing Sri Lanka into the light as a destination for festivities and to portray Sri Lankan food, culture, gems, handicrafts, tea, shopping and entertainment at one venue, ‘Tourism Fest with the Spirit of Christmas’ will take place from December 19 to 23 at the Arcade, Independence Square.
It will be organised by the Sri Lanka Development Authority (SLTDA) together with other tourism institutions under the Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry.
Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that this is the first festive season under the new government and the idea behind this is to organise events for the tourists visiting Sri Lanka.
“Let the foreigners know that Sri Lanka is now tourism minded in order to entertain and provide events. I’m quite confident that there will be a huge crowd coming cheerfully for this,” he said.
He suggested that the country should create more such entertainment events for the tourists visiting the country.
“What is lacking in Sri Lanka is there are not enough events for the tourists,” he said.
He said that in Colombo almost all the hotels are booked by now; the occupancy in the city hotels are much more than they expected.
“I’m really surprised. We are moving around to the figure of 1.8 million tourists for this year. Our target is to move up to two million,” he said.
He also noted that they are hoping to reach the Rs.3 billion revenue mark.
The minister further stated that they organised a similar event in 2002, as an idea of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, which was quiet a success, it didn’t have all the organisations coming together like this time. There is better organisation and much more to see this time, he said.
Highlighting the five-day event, SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella said it would feature food festivals, exhibitions on cultural heritage, wildlife, zoological gardens, gem and jewellery, Ceylon tea from seven regions of Sri Lanka, handicrafts and nativity plays.
The Central Cultural Fund, Zoological and Wildlife Departments, Gem and Jewellery Authority, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Laksala would be involved.
Entertainment wise, he noted that there would be shopping bazaars, cultural shows performed by the Sri Lanka armed forces and Sri Lanka police, live musical bands, Christmas carols, choirs from schools and churches, etc.
The food festival will feature stalls from leading hotels and restaurants in Colombo with live cookery demonstrations and dining facility. He noted that maximum price on food would be Rs.500 per item.
With regard to the expenditure for the event, it was noted that it would be mainly through contributions, especially from the sponsors.
In addition, a special double decker shuttle bus service organised by ‘Colombo City Tour’, will be available from selected Colombo hotels daily to and from the venue with live carols on board.