A local vendor tries to sell handmade items to tourists at Dutch Fort in
Galle – Reuters
By Charumini de Silva
The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) is rolling out an initiative to double the incentive provided for inbound tour operators to $ 10 per traveller, in a bid to encourage them to increase tourist traffic and promote the destination following the Easter Sunday setback.
The promotion agency will provide $ 10 per tourist the tour operators bring into the country, which will be funded by the 2019 Budget approved for SLTPB. Previously $ 5 per tourist was paid.
“We will soon call Expression of Interest (EOIs) for our inbound tour operators program,” SLTPB Chairman Kishu Gomes told Daily FT.
He said the program was active in the past, but was discontinued and was being reactivated due to requests from tour agents especially aftermath of Easter Sunday terror attacks.“Given the circumstances we have now doubled the incentive from $ 5 to $ 10 per tourist the operators bring into the country,” Gomes added.
He said Rs. 250 million had been allocated for this program and depending on the feedback they receive from tour agents, they had the capacity to even further expand the investment allocated in line with industry demands.
Shedding more light on the selection process for this program, the SLTPB Chief also said the applications would be scrutinised in line with a criteria set by a working committee which comprised both promotion agency officials and industry veterans.
Tour operators who bring over 1,000 tourists to the country annually are eligible for the program.
A tourist is estimated to spend around $ 2,000 in Sri Lanka per stay, according to official statistics.
He noted that tourist arrivals on average had picked up significantly over the past few months.
“From an average of 945 tourist arrivals per day in May, which is the lowest this year, it has now increased to 3,700 per day. This is a remarkable improvement given it’s also our lean period,” Gomes pointed out.
Considering the safety measures taken by the Government and tourism authorities, Sri Lanka Tourism officials recently expressed confidence about welcoming around 2.1 to 2.3 million tourists by the end of the year.
A team of 18 Australian travel and tour operators arrived in Sri Lanka on a 10-day long familiarisation tour hosted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).
Tourist arrivals from Australia have shown a steady incline in recent months and it is envisioned that the familiarisation tour would capitalise on this wave of interest. Over 4,000 tourists had arrived from Australia to Sri Lanka mostly by air during the month of June this year.
The tour operators prior to the familiarisation tour had cited that tourists from Australia were particularly interested in the cultural triangle, the beaches down south and exploring both Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya. This customised tour will take the 18 tour agents on a 10-day tour starting from Negombo, Habarana, Trincomalee, Kandy, Dambulla, Mirissa, Ahungalla and return to Colombo before their departure. They visited Sigiriya and the Dambulla Cave temple, Koneswaram Temple, Marble beach, and will be heading to Riverston, with many more in the itinerary line up. On the 15th on the day of their departure, they will proceed to Colombo Airport, and prior to their departure, they will have a B2B meeting with the Sri Lankan travel trade.
The tourists were much impressed with the culture and beauty of Sri Lanka and were curious to know more about the destination. When inquired on what was their impression regarding Sri Lanka, the travel agents had positive feedback to give on their experience.
“We’re really happy to be here and we had a wonderful experience by exploring all these historical sites, exquisite beaches and wildlife parks. Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for the traveller. There’s so much to see and explore,” said one Australian tourist who came from Melbourne.
The travel agents were really thankful to the SLTPB for providing the opportunity to explore a beautiful destination, and also giving a chance to spread the message that Sri Lanka is a safe and an interesting destination to travel.
Travellers looking for a reason to plan their next holiday to Sri Lanka will find plenty of them at the Sri Lanka Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, experts said at the UAE Sri Lanka Forum.
National Chamber of Exporters Secretary General Shiham Marikar spoke about what visitors can expect from the pavilion at the event. “We will be there to showcase all our products and services for the six months of the exhibition. Sri Lanka has lots of cultural events, so there will be a special focus on those. Visitors can also learn and experience our National Day celebrations which will fall during the event.”
Sri Lanka’s participation at the event is being spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board together with public and private stakeholders. The pavilion will showcase the country’s 2,500 year heritage in a contemporary context, aligning a rich and ancient history of ingenuity and skill with a modern mindset that continues to drive a culture of innovation and creativity. The design of the pavilion is based around a central water theme, as Sri Lanka is an island that enjoys miles of beautiful coastline.
“Sri Lanka is honoured and happy to be part of the Global Expo 2020 event in Dubai. Preparations for the event are progressing well and we have marked several milestones such as the recent announcement of our pavilion at the Opportunity district,” said Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara.
http://www.travelandleisure.com: After the Sri Lanka bombings on Easter Sunday, travellers have been wary — and understandably so. Tourism to Sri Lanka essentially halted, with Reuters reporting that bookings to the island were down 186% on average the week following the attack compared to the previous year. It’s no surprise that the entire economy — including many small, family-run businesses —have taken a hit as once-desired hotel rooms, restaurants, and beaches sit empty.
Not long ago, the island was one of the world’s most desired vacation destinations, with Lonely Planet naming it the No. 1 country to visit in 2019. And now, over two months after the attacks, the US Department of State has eased their travel restriction to Sri Lanka, letting travellers know that the “ordered and authorised departure status of US Government employees and their family members has been lifted.”
The easement is good news for companies like Audley Travel, who partner with local people and organisations in Sri Lanka to provide bespoke travel experiences. With concerned travellers and the local economy in mind, Audley Travel has curated places and experiences that can support local partners and rebuild the country.
Stay on a 50-acre organic farm
It’s situated within Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, but Jim’s Farm Villas also provides weary guests with mountain views and a countryside-feel. Travellers can help the local economy by booking an Ayurvedic treatment (natural medicine) with a local doctor, taking cooking classes, or go explore local temples.
Get a taste of village life
The stunning Horathapola Estate provides an encounter with rural Sri Lankan life where guests can bike through the nearby plantations or visit local temples. For a purely local experience, travellers can visit an organic coconut oil manufacturer or swing by the local “pola” (farmers market) to buy regional food and get to know the people who are benefiting from your purchase.
Let the local tribe guide you through the jungle
At the Gal Oya Lodge you’ll find a safe, comfortable home base, but the real show stopper is the nearby Gal Oya National Park, where you’ll have the ability to explore the park alongside the area’s local Vedda tribe. On the prized excursions, guests are guided through the jungle, learn about the tribe’s use of medicinal plants, and see ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings.
The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has partnered with 35 leading travel agents to offer the Bank’s Credit Card holders a purse-easy travel experience by purchasing airline tickets through the Bank’s Easy Payment Plans (EPP).
Credit Card holders can now purchase their airline tickets and convert the payment to an EPP, a service that allows cardholders to pay in equal monthly instalments of their choice from a variety of payment plans.
Available until end June 2020, this benefit can be accessed by purchasing tickets through 2nd Chance Travel, Aitken Spence Travels, Air Travel Services, American Lloyd Travels, Avenir Holidays, BG Air Services, Bongo Travel, Casons Travels, Classic Travel, Continents & Oceans, Crystal Travels & Tours, Dream Holidays, Gabo Travels, George Steuart Travels, Green Tours & Resorts, Hayleys Travels, Holiday Plan DMC, Hemas Travels, Invite Holidays, Jetwing Holidays, Mac Air, Mackinnons Travels, Nawaloka Air Services, NKAR Travels, Qwest Designations, Rameca Travel & Leisure, Shums Travels, Shan Tours International, Sparklink Travels, Sparton Travels, The Traveller Global, Travel 7 and Travel World.
Additionally, cardholders would be entitled to an array of benefits such as free insurance cover on Visa Infinite, Visa Signature, Visa Platinum, World Mastercard, UnionPay Asia Prestige Platinum and UnionPay Asia Prestige Diamond cards as well as international hotel stay offers from Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay, international entertainment and other benefits including airport lounge facilities offered by these card brands.
“At Commercial Bank, we are always looking for ways to make the lives of our cardholders easier and more enjoyable. Through this partnership, our cardholders can now fulfil their travel aspirations at a manageable cost,” said Commercial Bank Card Centre Head Thusitha Suraweera.
Details of the offers and Easy Payment Plans offered by the Bank are available on the Bank’s website http://www.combank.lk
Commercial Bank cardholders are also eligible to participate in global promotions carried out by Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay cards and receive more benefits under the ‘COMBANK Max Loyalty Rewards’ program.
Commercial Bank Credit and Debit Cards offer year-round promotions covering a wide variety of services. Commercial Bank was the first bank to offer loyalty rewards for both Credit and Debit Card holders under its Max Loyalty Rewards scheme. The Bank was also a pioneer in extending promotional discount offers, which were traditionally only offered for Credit Cards to its Debit Cards.
Commercial Bank cards are the fastest growing cards in Sri Lanka and enjoy market leadership in Credit and Debit Card cumulative point-of-sale usage. The Bank offers a variety of Credit Cards in the Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers of Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay cards, as well as Visa Signature, World Mastercard, Visa Infinite, and UnionPay Diamond cards in the premium segment.
The cards are equipped with ‘Tap n Go’ NFC technology and are backed by a strong NFC Point-of-Sale (POS) network.
Travelling a distance of 115km into the interior of the island from the capital of Colombo, through the iconic city of Kandy, and from there along the Kandy-Mahiyangana Road, is Digana, home to the renowned Victoria Golf Course, a 517-acre property set in the lush hills of the Knuckles Range on the shores of the Victoria Reservoir.
Spreading over peaks and slopes with the vast Victoria Reservoir breathing soothing breeze, Victoria Golf Course is as fine as any in the world. Still more it’s awarded as the finest and the most immaculately maintained golf course in the Indian subcontinent for several years and voted ‘Best in Asia 2013’ by Asian Golf Monthly.
The 6877m (par 73) golf course which has made the full use of features of the terrain, undulating hillside and majestic forests. Golfers Digest ranks it in top 100 Most Beautiful Courses in the World.
From there, a well-tread gravel road takes you to No. 21, Coconut Hill – a hillock overlooking the Victoria Golf Club. Atop this beautiful hillock rests the Residence Digana, like a veritable pearl of unspoilt beauty amidst an expanse of palm trees. The view from there is nothing short of breathtaking – the Golf Course and the Victoria Reservoir against the idyllic backdrop of the Knuckles Range.
The elegant, yet sophisticated interior of Dutch inspired décor welcomes you to this retreat draped on a picturesque hillside. From the outset, the arched windows framed in wooden louvers gives a fairytale feel of a hideout castle.
The entrance opens directly into an airy and well lit living room, the equally or larger dining room opens into a courtyard, aka a ‘meda midula’, featuring a vertical garden amidst a luxuriant screen of vegetation. A Pettagama (Dutch Box) with a delicate ebony boarder is placed on the side, shelving a standing horse on its hooves, a symbol of physical and spiritual vitality and freedom, setting the tone for the serenity to come.
In-between the dining and living stands in all its glory the Dutch Bar, a testimony to the Dutch heritage in Sri Lanka – closer inspection reveals that it is assembled out of small doors, finding a new use of old doors other than keeping storms and intruders out! Versatile in its use, this is also used as a breakfast bar.
If the Dutch Box at the entrance failed to leave its mark on you, be sure not to miss the one at the entrance to the dining hall. Perhaps 6 times as large as the former, this unique collector’s item boasts a linage of not less than two centuries. Above the Pettagama sitting firm on the wall in a perpendicular posture is a unique a rare finding of a Crest of Imperial Crown of Austria the Coat of Arms of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
The dining table, which sits eight people comfortably, displays intricate carvings, majestic enough to host candle lit dinners, still simple enough for an early supper – yet another alternate use of a decorated door! A dog-legged staircase leads up to the first floor to a TV lounge, which also serves as an enclosed second sitting room. Decorated with single vintage beds adorned in earth coloured cushioning and an almairah from the Kandyan era, adds cozy intimacy and a touch of sophistication to the Dutch undertone of this mansion.
Residence Digana is a brand new boutique villa offering four en-suite Luxury rooms including two Deluxe rooms. It boasts of an Ultra-Superior Master Bedroom, named Tee-One, overlooking the Golf Course – tastefully decorated, the room is a classic marriage of vintage design with the comforts of a modern bedroom.
Tee-Two is a Superior room with a spacious balcony overlooking the pool, perfect for star gazing, or just watching the clouds pass by. Tee-Three is a large room with a four poster bed, and Tee-Four is a Twin room on the ground floor. All rooms are air conditioned and come with tea/coffee making facility, spacious toilet, toiletries and a hair dryer.
The villa blends beautifully with the enchanting splendour of the scenic beauty of its natural setting and the waterways which flow lazily. Lending an air of romance and a touch of elegance, the infinity pool comes with a solar cover heating the water to lukewarm temperature to match the salubrious environment of Digana – making the perfect setting for either a quick dip after a good game of golf or to lounge all day relaxing in the sunken seat gazing at the vanishing edge over the Golf Course and the turquoise waters of the reservoir.
Western hot breakfast is provided to all guests. It’s recommended to use the Club House restaurant that serves an array of Western and Eastern food. Quick delivery of food could also be arranged for which settlements needs to be made by cash to the delivery boy.
The villa can also prepare food for guests by shopping and cooking according to their requirements or having the guests do the shopping, which the villa will cook in the well-equipped, stainless steel kitchen. A usage fee will be levied. Tea and coffee is on the house and guests can bring their own alcohol. A limited menu with soft drinks is available. The Manager Vernon and his assistant Nilu are ready to help.
Spa treatment is available by an experienced male masseur with over 25 years of service in some of the biggest spas in Sri Lanka. His specialty is a 100-minute full body Ayurvedic oil massage from head to toe in the comfort of one’s room. He is on call Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Residence Digana is a place to relax, unwind and to forget about everything. Set in the panorama of the Victoria Golf Course, Victoria Reservoir and the Knuckles Mountain range with rooms which favour particular views, this is indeed a oasis which stands testimony to true Sri Lankan hospitality.
One of the greatest rewards of traveling — discovering the new — is reflected in T+L readers’ picks for the world’s best islands. Not only do several islands make their debut but one newcomer to the list also vaulted directly into the No. 1 spot. Thanks to those adventurers who have gone before you, all you need to do is pick your desired body of water to find your paradise.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islandsaccording to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
The Greek islands have long been beloved by T+L readers for their distinctive natural beauty, exquisite food, and ancient culture, and Santorini (this year’s No. 14) has been a regular in the world’s best islands category. But three others — olive-grove-filled Crete (No. 7), volcanic Milos (No. 4), and marble-rich Páros (No. 11) — also earned spots for 2019, making Greece the most represented country on the list.
No. 6 Anguilla, named best island in the Caribbean for the third year in a row, earned praise for its welcoming residents, which one reader called “some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in the Caribbean,” and its “mesmerizing” beaches. Also lauded for its coastlines: the perennially popular Philippine island of Palawan (No. 2) and honeymoon favorites like Fiji (No. 12), Bali (No. 3), and Maldives (No. 5). One reader called Palawan the “single most beautiful place I have ever seen,” while a fan of Maldives — located in the Indian Ocean — gushed over “crystal water with white-sand beaches and very, very friendly locals.”
As for the No. 1 pick, it ups the ante with elephants, leopards, and an excellent cup of tea. Read on for the big reveal.
Located just south of India, this roughly 25,000-square-mile island tempts travelers with a diversity of experiences. Along the stunning coastline, the marine national parks make this destination a surfer’s, snorkeler’s, and diver’s dream. Inland, tea plantations await exploration, as do wildlife parks, which teem with animals, including elephants, monkeys, and one of the world’s largest populations of leopards. Luxurious lodgings suit all tastes, from the eco-friendly, five-star Jetwing Vil Uyana, comprised of thatched dwellings set amid paddies and marshes in the Central Province, to the beachside Amanwella, a 30-suite property that embraces Aman’s dedication to understated indulgence. As one T+L reader wrote, “No wonder it is called the pearl of the Indian Ocean.”
The Board of Management of SLTPB has issued a circular after the subsequent Cabinet of Minsters had taken a decisiom to support overseas tour operators for a joint marketing campaign during 01st October 2019 – 30th September 2020. The proposals are called from respective tour operators through their local DMC’S who fulfill the below Criteria.
The respective local DMC should be registered by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLDTA) and had paid Tourism Development Levy (TDL) during the last three years (2016,2017,2018)
Any overseas tour operators who generated at least 250 pax during 2018 to Sri Lanka is eligible to seek support for joint marketing and promotional activities in selected source markets.
Each tour operator should submit the preceding three years of total pax genertaed to Sri Lanka (2016,2017,2018) certified by the local DMC for the respective year.
The number of tourists generated by each tour operator is taken into account in calculating the amount of promotional funds to be granted.
Each pax generated will be equivalent to funding of US$ 10 for SLTPB.
Any interested operator could send their proposals through the local DMC in the formate proposed by SLTPB. Proposals via email will not be accepted.
The deadline to submit proposals will be on or before 15th August 2019.
In a bid to boost tourism, the Government yesterday announced that the visa-on-arrival scheme for citizens of 39 countries will be implemented from 1 August, after the move, which was to be effective from 1 May, was suspended soon after the Easter Sunday attacks.
“Earlier we had the Cabinet approval for a number of countries other than India and China. Due to the Easter Sunday terror attacks, we had to temporary suspend it until the country bounced back to normal.
Yesterday (Monday) I had a chat with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and he said to prepare a Cabinet paper to revive the previously suspended Cabinet paper,” Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga told journalists.
However, this time around, the Minister said the Government would introduce a tracking system to ensure that no “undesirable people” would enter the country.
“There were few aspects that they are concerned in implementing the free visa-on-arrival. We have to see whether there are undesirable people who come into the country and make use of this opportunity. Therefore, whilst revival of previous Cabinet paper is being done, we have to find ways and means on how to track those passengers who are coming to Sri Lanka. We are trying to develop a separate platform in order to ensure that no unwanted people make use of this opportunity and create problems in Sri Lanka,” he added.
Amaratunga said the revival Cabinet paper will be drafted soon as a joint Cabinet paper by the Ministry of Tourism Development and Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs.
When asked why the major tourism source markets of India and China were not included in the list of countries eligible for free visa-on-arrival, the Minister said that the majority of income was derived from these two countries, and they are now doing this as a trial project for six months.
“We want see whether it will beneficial or whether we will lose revenue. We will wait and see. If it goes well, we will extend it to China and India as well,” he added.
The countries included in the visa-on-arrival scheme are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia,
Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has been a strong partner in development of Sri Lanka since 1966, will provide US $ 160 million for a railway efficiency improvement project in a bid to move Sri Lanka’s railway into the future.
According to ADB Country Director in Sri Lanka, Sri Widowati, discussions pertaining to the proposed project have been already concluded and ADB hopes to obtain the Sri Lankan government’s approval for the project shortly.
This project will support immediate improvements in the operation, maintenance, safety, skills development by improving the efficiency of railway operations and addressing key bottlenecks in the railway network through the modernization of the telecommunication system, ticketing and seat reservation system and so on.
In addition to this, ADB will extend its support for the Kelani Valley Railway Line Improvement Project. Through these efforts, ADB is expected to develop the transport, trade and logistics sectors in Sri Lanka thereby bringing much needed employment opportunities, connectivity and many more.
ADB believes that improved road and railway connectivity particularly in rural areas will show positive results in the form of more employment opportunities, better prices for farmers’ produce, better health care facilities and indicators, better school enrolment in the rural sector. Speaking on ADB’s overall operations in Sri Lanka, particularly its investment commitment in the transport sector in Sri Lanka, Sri Widowati stressed the need to develop the transport sector in Sri Lanka to better achieve set social economic targets in the country.
Furthermore, citing the transport sector as the backbone of economy, she reiterated the ADB’s commitment to create growth oriented infrastructure and logistics facilities in the country to create prosperity and promote inclusiveness.
In addition to this, ADB in partnership with the Sri Lankan government has made a huge investment for the integrated Road Investment Program (iRoad) that focuses on connecting habitations in rural areas with the main economic activities in the urban areas. Through this project, ADB intends to make a responsible commitment to the well-being of the society, economy and environment while uplifting the quality of lives of the vast rural communities in each province in the country.
Speaking further she said, ADB’s cumulative sovereign loans during the period from 1966- up to June 2019 in Sri Lanka, amounts to US $ 9.3 billion. Out of this US $ 9.3 billion, transport sector holds the biggest share of funds or 29% of the total loans while Energy, Water and urban Development, Agriculture natural resources and Rural development, Finance and public sector management , Education sectors account for 16%, 14%, 14% , 12% and 10% respectively. In addition to that, Industry and trade, Multisector and Health sectors account for 3%, 1% and 16% respectively.
As far as ADB’s total investment in the transport sector is concerned, it has disbursed more than US $ 2,681 million for 28 projects in the transport sector while it has provided 26 technical assistance grants amounting to US $ 16 million.