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Ambitious plans underway to make SL a ‘happening’ tourist destination

15 February 2024 09:55 am - 69     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Authorities of Sri Lanka Tourism address the media to share plans to make the island nation more attractive for international visitors

  • SLTPB set to enter into agreements with a consortium of global brands, both foreign and domestic
  • Objective is to significantly boost tourism activities, with goal of increasing average daily spend of tourists
  • SLTPB chief hints ‘unique’ event to take place in Sigiriya
  • Plans afoot to collaborate with European Union to launch a wellness tourism campaign 

‘‘We will make it a more happening destination; 2024 is going to be a very positive year”
- Chalaka Gajabahu 

By Nishel Fernando 
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is gearing up for a major transformation, as the authorities unveil an ambitious plan to make the country one of the world’s most dynamic and sought-after destinations. 
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Chalaka Gajabahu announced yesterday that the SLTPB is set to enter into agreements with a consortium of global brands, both foreign and domestic, to sponsor and promote a series of exciting events. This move comes as part of a larger strategy to boost tourism and make 2024 the best year yet for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.

 “We will make it a more happening destination; 2024 is going to be a very positive year,” Gajabahu declared.
Sri Lanka’s tourism scene has long grappled with a shortage of compelling events and activities to engage tourists and encourage higher spending. This is a concern that has been frequently raised.
The fresh initiatives by the tourism authorities aim to significantly boost tourism activities, with the goal of increasing the average daily spend of tourists to US $ 500 from the current US $ 160, putting Sri Lanka in league with luxury destinations like the Maldives.
As per the provisional data by the Central Bank, the earnings per tourist witnessed a rebound in January 2024. The earnings per tourist arrival have improved to US $ 1,641 in January, from US $ 1,580 in the 1H23 period. In the 2H23 period, the earnings dropped significantly.
“This is a step-by-step process. It won’t happen overnight,” Gajabahu emphasised.
The event calendar will feature a diverse range of activities, including a water festival, Ride for Ceylon and a ‘unique’ event in Sigiriya.
“I can’t divulge more details of the Sigiriya event but I can say it will be a surprise,” Gajabahu teased.
Additionally, a key meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) event is scheduled to be held in the south of Sri Lanka next year.
The recent surge in European tourists has been particularly encouraging for the tourism sector. The European tourists, known for their longer stays of nine to 10 days or even up to two weeks, contribute significantly to tourism revenue.
Gajabahu highlighted the success of influencer programmes in promoting Sri Lanka in emerging European markets such as Poland. The SLTPB plans to expand the influencer programme with a category-based approach.
Furthermore, the SLTPB, in collaboration with the European Union, will launch a wellness tourism campaign by inviting 30 influencers from Germany and France, starting from the 15th of this month.
With these new initiatives, the SLTPB is confident in surpassing its target of 2.3 million tourist arrivals and US $ 4 billion in income for the year

  Comments - 69

  • Foreigner Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:08 AM

    Stop ribbing off the tourists by offering the same service and goods to a very high unfair price. Stop cheating, ban pushy beach boys and so called guides. Stop restricting the freedom by presenting outdated "our culture" "our tradition" talks. Keep monks and clergies out of the public space and government administration.

    Amaran Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:10 AM

    As our President highligted earlier, the tourists hav limited places to see in COLOMBO. This must be addressed. 1) Encourage tourist visit Dehiwala Zoo 2) Keep Bera Lake clean all the time 3) St Anthony's Church - Kochikade

    M Fernando Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:31 PM

    Dehiwala Zoo is an abomination and behind the times of a modern zoo by any standard. It is a horror-story. It should be closed down, the valuable trees can be cut down for timber, the animals sold for foreign exchange and the land sold to developers to build much-needed high end condominiums

    Ama Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:16 AM

    It is rather better to say "We will make it a more HAPPY destination" than "happening"

    soti Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:41 AM

    I like the header.... 'happening tourist destination'..how happening???

    Christo255 Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:47 AM

    This idea is not new. It was revealed by AKD of NPP at a rally. Real copy cat this chalaka. Stupidity is trying to compare ourselves to Maldives. We must have our own unique brand and identity, no ones gonna come to SL if Maldives is a part of their bucket list. Even after all these years talking bullshit still

    Kabir Hashim Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:54 AM

    Harin and his henchmen may need a place to hide when the JVP comes to power.

    Dulan de Silva Friday, 16 February 2024 03:36 PM

    Are you the former Minister? If so how ðo you explain thinking that JVP will come to power?

    Wixie Saturday, 17 February 2024 08:31 AM

    From the Frying pan to the Pyre

    Kandiah Balendran Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:56 AM

    Pachabahu should first put some toilets at Sigiriya.

    Sivalingam Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:58 AM

    Indian smugglers are not tourists. Most of the items sold in Pettah are smuggled.

    More clean Toilets is a Necessity Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:05 PM

    Finally there is more interest in tourism. However, basics like having more clean toilets at tourist attractions

    SL Baboon Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:10 PM

    How about teaching some fundamentals of being human to our population. Such as; Being courteous Apologizing when mistakes are made More friendly hotel and restaurant staff Cleanliness rating of restaurants around the city of Colombo. Being conscious of pedestrians when driving their vechicles. and Improve transportation around the major cities of Lanka. Learn from places like KL ( Malaysia) and Singapore, instead of trying to emulate Maldives.

    What Happened to 5 year Multiple Visa Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:11 PM

    Arrange for more long term Visa’s. There was an article sometime back of a 5 year multiple visit visa. This is definitely a good idea especially to the retirees who can plan out for the next few years accordingly. Only allow them to rent outstation apartments, annexes or rooms which will benefit those who need extra income.

    Jesus Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:24 PM

    Chalaka saying All this is the problem. Lol

    Barbarians Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:31 PM

    First and foremost make sure all Took and Taxi drivers are given training/workshop on how to be civil respect tourist and protect the country's image,

    Nimal Friday, 16 February 2024 01:56 AM

    First and foremost, need to reign in the rogue Tuk Tuk drivers and Tour Guides. They are out to rip off tourists and end up discrediting our country. Have them all registered, trained and monitored by the Ministry of Tourism. Next, address the issue of sexual harassment or any other kind of nuisance harassment for that matter. If we get the basics right, everything else will fall into place. Also, keep in mind most tourists come from word of mouth.

    NV Jen Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:33 PM

    SLTPB should also strive to ensure that repeat visits of tourists happen regularly. For that Tourist Police force should be expanded , who should undertake regular patrolling in key areas to avoid harassment of tourists. Another aspect is cleanliness. Rest rooms in Trains, Railway stations, in tourist spots, public toilets and those are in malls have to be maintained in perfect condition all the time. These will enhance the image of the country amongst the tourists who would want to come back again and again.

    More Budget Flights too Thursday, 15 February 2024 12:46 PM

    Besides the higher spending tourism, cater to middle income tourism too. Sign up with more budget airlines who can bring in a great amount of tourists. This is what’s happening in other Asian tourist destinations currently.

    Dan Thursday, 15 February 2024 01:04 PM

    Wow. What a great announcement at the BEGINNING of a term of office of a government. Way to go SLTPB.

    ANOTHER THOUGHT WHILE HALUCINATING Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:24 PM

    Dan do not get carried away. I think the Chairman is hallucinating. Citizens are SICK

    Fernando Thursday, 15 February 2024 01:14 PM

    In other countries, difficult to reach higher places are fixed with elevators. Look at Sigiriya. Who can visit this place except physically able? If Sigiriya is in a European country, even wheelchair passengers will have an easy way to reach the top. Think about improving such places.

    Natural will Go off Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:19 PM

    Its natural beauty will go off with new man made installations. Does Mount Everest have a elevator or lift?

    DW (from England) Thursday, 15 February 2024 01:18 PM

    Get the Railway track between Kandy and Badulla fixed as a matter of urgency if you want to make SL a happening nation. So many tourists are frustrated due to frequent derailments. Sri Lanka officials are so good at talking. Show some action!!!!

    Ghgfjhghhh Thursday, 15 February 2024 01:36 PM

    We have great ambitions, but our National carrer Srilankan airlines is on the verge of falling down, with old A33o Air buses.

    Gabriella Thursday, 15 February 2024 02:05 PM

    The first thing to do is understand the market. The second thing to do is attract people to senior positions that don’t have a “paddy cultivator” mentality. The third thing to do is provide entertainment and not shut the whole country down on a Poya day, and expect people to drink tea. The fourth thing to understand is that Sri Lanka is a “backpacker” destination and one way to kill the golden goose is make the destination more expensive. The fifth thing to understand is that people don’t want to visit a country where every activity involves a significant health risk and see miserable unsmiling faces.

    Ranga Thursday, 15 February 2024 02:13 PM

    lol certainly not these bunch of guys

    Lion Thursday, 15 February 2024 02:19 PM

    Just peep in to the public toilet of Kandy railway station then you can see the planing of these big talkers . This is all bullshit

    Simon Aiya Friday, 16 February 2024 04:38 AM

    I’m still traumatised after visiting the one at Yala National park at a time of desperation.

    Tourist manager from the UK. Thursday, 15 February 2024 02:25 PM

    Open up Palaly airport to flights from West and East. This will booster the tourist numbers. One should have a broad outlook and mind to implement this step.

    Sokrates Thursday, 15 February 2024 02:55 PM

    In order to attract more tourists, the following is absolutely necessary: 1. Free visa for 3 months. 2. Recognition of driving licenses in English or international driving licenses. 3. Free floating of rupee to get the true exchange rate for foreign exchange. 4. The possibility to buy alcohol in every supermarket, wine store, guesthouse, hotel, train station and long distance train every day from 8am to 2am (hotels, main railway stations and long distance trains 24h/d). 5. Sentencing harsh punishments for sexual assaults, even if the victim cannot come to court (reporting to the police must suffice or by video conference in court). 6. Only allow checked, licensed 3-wheeler taxis with taximeters. Do not allow any crooks with a criminal record as drivers. 7. Severely punish corruption and fraud in the tourism sector. Sentence offenders to the maximum possible penalty. This is just the beginning of what needs to change.

    Punchi Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:05 PM

    After 75 years of independence from foreign rule our economy is dependent of foreigners visiting our country, on foreign aid and grants, on foreign employment on foreign, foreign foreign

    Independent to be dependent Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:48 PM

    So SL is still dependent on foreign sources for almost everything. This is even more important that the dependency (foreign employment, foreign tourists, foreign imports, foreign technologies, foreign knowledge, foreign investment, foreign support etc.,) is much more then pre-independence. So what is the significane of 4th February? Oh! SL now has the independence to be totally dependent on rest of the world. LOL

    Daya Jay Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:06 PM

    Hope they know what they are talking about

    Fred Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:18 PM

    If we want to make SL a ‘happening’ tourist destination we will need to legalize cannabis as Thailand has done. 30 years ago it was available in Sri Lanka from almost any waiter. Many older persons in the West use this herb for their ailments and would not leave home without accessibility to it.

    lion Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:19 PM

    WE have been seen these plans mixed with beautiful words with attractive heading for so many years but non get the country to the correct destination of developing tourisms. We heard the other day that out of the visitors who come to country only 3% revisit our country back and that itself shows all those who were promoting have failed in their attempt and the government loss colossal amount of funds they used in travelling over seas to promote tourism in our country, This is a failed state in every aspect and that is the bitter truth

    Pin Gona 2 Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:40 PM

    Maldives has implemented a smart plan by reducing Asian (Indian) tourists and make more room and exclusivity for western

    Cherath Thursday, 15 February 2024 04:24 PM

    What can SL offer tourists for the hard earned money they spend? That's where they should start. Toilets for example. We need to provide clean, hygienic, safe toilets on all main roads at least at every 10 km. Right now, there is none. The ones they have in city centres are so disgusting, they can only be used by a few. Official souvenir vendors, clean snack points, roadside private showers, balloon rides, cable cars to Adam's peak, Ella, Pidurutalagala, safe camping sites with rental equipment, water sports, river cruises, floating markets in outstations, openair bargain markets etc etc. YOU CANNOT MERELY ASK FOREIGNERS TO VISIT TO SEE PRETTY SRI LANKA. We need to show why visit SL instead of ....and OFFER them plenty to pleas .

    Banda Thursday, 15 February 2024 05:47 PM

    Take all these comments into consideration and stop fooling tourists and our people. Invest more on to provide better service, change attitude, maje arrangements reduce the ticket prices by eliminating discrimination. They have no road safety and no washrooms to go into when it comes to site seeing.Look into health and safety as a priority.

    Lion Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:02 PM

    Don’t con , no one believes your ambitious plans , those are sweet words but the reality is disgusting. This is the story of a foreigner with 3 of his pals who got in to 1.25 PM train to Kandy today. They had 2nd class tickets which don’t indicate any seat no on it. When they get in to the train all the seats are occupied probably with 3 class passenger or the station may have issued more tickets than the seats available. They were pushed around by the local they were very un happy of the experience they had in the train and this bad experience they had will go around. Rail way Autoritis must seriously look in to this. Issue ticket with seat numbers and have regular checkups to see unauthorized people occupying the seats . Railway authorities must be very strict on this . These ambitious plans must start with fundamentals related to the tourist industry . Otherwise all your ambitious plans will be a BORU show.

    Sammy Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:08 PM

    Good but don't loose sight of the suffering masses. Any benefits from tourism should seep down to them instead of being pocketed by the corrupt and the elite.

    Wickremasinghe Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:15 PM

    RUBBISH. Day dreamers.

    Fernando Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:35 PM

    Over to you "Natural will go off". Have you ever been to Switzerland's Alps mountains? Learn how they have used the modern methods to reach the snowy mountains. Mount Everest was not my topic. What's wrong with fixing an elevator on one side of the Sigiriya?

    Amara Thursday, 15 February 2024 06:54 PM

    Everyday it's something happening, no need anything new.

    Gt Thursday, 15 February 2024 07:30 PM

    Why would tourists come to sl when they can go to other countries that won't try rip them off, most tourists that come aren't rich, we risk losing them as visitors by trying to be like leeches on their backs

    Hopper Thursday, 15 February 2024 07:55 PM

    Maybe trash/rubbish collection should be tackled first.

    Gnane Gnanendran Thursday, 15 February 2024 07:57 PM

    Hahahah.. only big eloquent talks but nothing constructive has been done. Tourists dont have decent toilet facilities at several places of attractions as witnessed and complained. SL is an over priced destination for tourists, compared to India, Malaysia nad Thailand.

    Andrea Ignatiouse Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:06 PM

    wow this is a wonderful country, you wont achieve your dreams until you take these tuktuk guys out of the roads, I am from spain and had to go thru so much harrasment there

    Sander Wolffers Thursday, 15 February 2024 08:34 PM

    Please don't become a paradise for Russian scum.

    Guide Thursday, 15 February 2024 10:24 PM

    Sri Lanka is very much popular among Chinese



    G. Peiris Friday, 16 February 2024 05:00 AM

    Keep it simple. Provide clean toilets . Clean up the country daily to reduce Dengue etc. Coat of paint regularly. Charge same prices for tourists and locals.Don't quote in American Dollars. Encourage Sri Lankans living and working overseas to bring their friends to show their country of birth.Provide good security(let them see Police and Army). For a start this will create more jobs. Many better holiday destinations to spend $500 US a day.

    Ganesh Friday, 16 February 2024 05:33 AM

    Let’s start buy making the entrance into the country more welcoming. One arrives at BIA only to be hounded by touts. BIA itself looks like a typical shithole. Food is prepared and stored in the most unhygenic manner, and served cold across the country. Be it a small hotel or 5star serving staff hygiene is truly the lowest. Places like pillawoos should be shut for not meeting food safety standards. Three wheeler and pick me drivers should clearly have their identification details displayed. Fares are metered. Police should be more friendly. Stop fleecing foreigners at places like the zoo and museums. Trains and railway station be upgraded. Beaches be kept clean and safe. On a whole the country needs to maintain proper cleanliness. Roads should be made safer.

    Tough ask Friday, 16 February 2024 01:59 PM

    So, in short the mindset of the population from which the policy makers come should be upgraded. Hmmm... tough ask.

    DW (From England) Friday, 16 February 2024 05:44 AM

    The visa to SL is US$ 50 and similar amount to visit other places. For example, the entrance fee to Zoo is around 3000 rupees for foreigners when locals pay around 100 rupees. That's 30 times!!!! Do Sri Lankan officials think every foreigner is a multi millionaire? This is not happening in other countries. Sri Lankan officials first need to change their attitude treat tourists when respect before even talking about making the country a "Happening Place"

    Terrence K Friday, 16 February 2024 06:01 AM

    Now you all talk of ambitious plans ? In the past also a different set of professionals spoke of ambitious plans for the tourist industry what happened to these plans? Have they been flushed down the sewerage pipes ? Sri Lankans are reputed for boasting without any constructive action taking place. That is why we fall into the category of this idiomatic expression "No Action Talk Only" till the Cows come home!!!!!!!!!!

    Ruben Huling Friday, 16 February 2024 06:59 AM

    What "national' tourism are you talking about, when your Minister-fellow is campaigning to make Sri Lanka, one of the Indian States or protectorate of India. You must be reporting to Indian Tourism Authority.

    Mandayan Friday, 16 February 2024 07:21 AM

    Increasing the toilet facilities, even if it is payable, across tourist destinations is important. Even locals must be offered few so that they won't dirty the environment. Without these, there is no 'happening'. Don't cater only to the mouth, cater to the down under as well for the tourists to happily visit.

    Sambo Friday, 16 February 2024 07:23 AM

    Tourists who visit our country are subject to rape, extortion and much harassment by beach boys. You charge Us$ 30 to visits some where there is not even a toilet. travel agents take them on long visits without the will of the guests. These should be looked into and not only building hotels.

    Anton Kim Friday, 16 February 2024 08:17 AM

    the senior leadership of the tourist board are smoking weed or taking some form of drugs, or just plainly dreaming or bottom line uneducated from a daily spend of US$ 160 to US$ 500 ?

    Kit Lee Friday, 16 February 2024 11:43 AM

    Talk is always cheap . Sri Lanka sells itself as a tourist destination. There’s no need for big plans and blue prints that costs unnecessarily and some individuals benefit . Number one priority - proper toilet facilities start with the Airport it needs an upgrade . All railway and bus stations the smell is a mile away . All towns need a few decent toilets and regular cleaning not just have the facility and that’s it . People will even pay a fee to use a clean toilet . Of course the domination of the Tuks is an issue however people know when they are getting ripped off and I’m sure social media addresses this for anyone wanting to holiday here . It’s a beautiful country . Just small changes needed . Toilets / all tuks have meters / I’m visiting right now these may be the pressing issues all tourists face .

    Meaningful changes Friday, 16 February 2024 02:16 PM

    @ Fernando 15 Feb 6:35 pm. I am with you. What a load of crap "Natural will go off". There are loads of such people in politics and clergy. With such people around meaningful changes not just for tourism but in every sphere will be hard to come.

    Sean ADAMS Friday, 16 February 2024 10:22 PM

    The people of Sri Lanka are an asset to the tourism industry. Where everything fails, the visitors will always remember the humbleness, mostly of the rural folk. Yes, there are tons of work to be done for Sri Lanka to be a happening place, mainly focusing on the infrastructure, night life and giving the tourists their monies worth, but don’t forget the biggest selling point, the “Sri Lankan smile”. Good luck to you all.

    Senaka Friday, 16 February 2024 11:06 PM

    Over to you "Natural will go off" please learn the difference between adventure tours and sight seeing tours. Only a fraction of people will visit Mount Everest.

    Wixie Saturday, 17 February 2024 12:45 PM

    Government licenced Alcohol 24/7/365, then SL can be THE destination for Tourism, no harm in being a RICH country



    S J Monday, 19 February 2024 07:13 AM

    I would advise to sort out trash management as a priority. If you don’t respect your own home environment, then a tourist certainly isn’t going to. As a tourist currently staying on the SL south coast, I would say that an ever increasing abundance of trash in all of the wrong places eclipses everything else.

    Observer Thursday, 22 February 2024 04:38 PM

    When I read SLTPB ambitions, I am thinking loud how to stop overtourism in Sri Lanka in coming years.

    Bala Sunderam Saturday, 24 February 2024 05:16 PM

    I have associated in tourism activities for a number of years. The time when bombs were exploding in the country until I left for greener pastures . As a good friend recently said recently, the good brains have left the country. So are the real skilled and industrious Srilankan citizens. The overseas environment is completely different. That's why they are doing well. Sorry guys who frustrated with the current state of affairs. As I read the comments I learn that there are beautiful ideas and suggestions. But do you think the mob SLTPB will ever read them ? BS. As a professional who participated in overseas travel fairs , I can vouch that it is the private sector that kept Sri Lanka tourism in the forefront. So we do not mass and expensive advertising overseas. As many has said , do the basics right , tourists will come . Word of mouth endorsement is worth thousands of advertising dollars. These people at the SLTPB are just wasting tax payers' money. Good luck

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