By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry officials expect the contribution of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibition) tourism to overall tourist arrivals to increase by at least by 5 percent to 20-25 percent this year.
Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) Chairman Kumar De Silva said yesterday that they are confident MICE tourism contribution to the overall tourist arrivals will at least reach 20-25 percent this year from 15-20 percent recorded last year.
SLCB General Manager Inoshini Perera revealed that MICE tourist arrivals reached 300,000 in 2018, contributing 15-20 percent to the arrivals figure of the year, according to rough estimates.
She noted that SLCB has to rely on estimates provided by SLCB officials, as there was no formal methodology to collect the data.
She pointed out that tourist arriving in the country don’t tick the necessary boxers to indicate the ‘purpose of visit’, while collecting MICE tourist data from hotels has also become difficult as hoteliers are reluctant to reveal the figures fearing the data would be exposed to their competitors.
“There is absolutely no way of getting the formal numbers, because our MICE tourist numbers are getting clubbed in with leisure tourist numbers,” she stressed.
According to the 2017 Annual Statistical Report published by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), arrival contribution from MICE tourists to overall arrivals was a mere 1.3 percent.
However, Perera stressed that MICE tourist arrivals could be even higher than 300,000 noting that the SLCB arrived at the figure conservatively.
Speaking of MICE tourists’ source markets, she noted that India is the top source market for Sri Lanka and the number of arrivals has been steadily increasing due to enhanced connectivity between the two countries.
Apart from India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia (Bali) remain as other top source markets for Sri Lanka’s MICE tourism industry, while SAARC countries have been identified as emerging source markets due to improved connectivity.
SLCB also continue to carry out marketing activities to promote MICE tourism in Sri Lanka’s traditional source markets in Europe— UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Perera emphasised that SLCB has also identified Australia as a new source market for Sri Lanka’s MICE tourism due to improved connectivity.
However, she noted that Sri Lanka will have to compete with Bali to attract MICE tourists from Australia.
Meanwhile, SLCB said they have formulated a marketing plan for MICE industry under Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan 2017 – 2020, and it is being implemented.
However, Perera sought greater involvement of the private sector to develop the MICE tourism industry, as SLCB remains the only facilitator of MICE events under the Tourism Act.
“We don’t organise events. We facilitate and promote and position Sri Lanka as a MICE destination. So we need the industry to come in, join hands with us,” she said.