Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando elaborates on plans to reinvigorate the Sri Lankan Tourism Industry

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Following the Milano BIT 2023, International Tourism Exchange, the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Milan organised a networking session with Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando, for the tour operators, travel media and other stakeholders of the tourism industry on 14 February 2023 at the Consulate General premises.

 Welcoming the Minister of Tourism and other participants, Consul General Dilani Weerakoon emphasised that as a tourist destination, Sri Lanka is capable to meet varied requirements and wishes of every traveller from all walks of life to make their dream holiday come true. The Consul General stated that Sri Lanka could be a second home to the Italians,‘familiar-yet-different’, as Sri Lanka and Italy share a lot in common from beautiful nature to historical heritage and archaeological treasures.

 Minister Harin Fernando stated that Sri Lanka tourism has bounced back, booming with confidence, in the last six months and number of tourist arrivals are back to normal. Minister Fernando also stated that meetings with Neos and ITA Airlines were positive and discussions are taking place about the possibility of initiating direct flights to Sri Lanka from Milan and Rome in the near future to facilitate a greater number of Italians to visit Sri Lanka. The minister indicated that he wishes to hold two large-scale tourism roadshows in Milan and Rome to revamp the Sri Lankan tourism market in Italy.

 Minister Fernando also mentioned that 2024 is expected to be the year of exceptional growth in high-end tourism for Sri Lanka. The country will be redefined with a different set of experiences on offer for tourists. He reiterated that Sri Lanka should not remain just a bucket list country. Sri Lanka with over 140 shipwrecks around its coast will be launched as a destination for scuba diving. A hike themed ‘Pekoe trail’ starting from Hantana, and across Haputhale, Ella to end in Nuwara Eliya, will be introduced. The Pekoe Trail is a curated walking experience funded by the European Union.

The Minister stated that an app will be introduced soon as an end-to-end solution to the needs of tourists which will include places to visit, accommodation with reviews and security features. The Minister invited Sri Lankans living in Italy to rent their houses and villas in Marawila, Vennappuwa coastal region via this app.

Addressing the gathering, Chairman Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Thisum Jayasuriya invited Italians to visit Sri Lanka for their MICE tourism requirements since the country is picking up as a destination for meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

 Photojournalist Marco Beumi from Italy who visited Sri Lanka in 2022 on a familiarisation tour facilitated by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, made a presentation during this networking session about his experience in Sri Lanka elaborating on authentic Sri Lankan food, Geoffrey Bawa architecture which exists in harmony with nature and scenic train rides across the central mountains. He stated that Sri Lankawithout doubt, is a safe and family friendly tourist destination that everyone should be visiting.

The networking session was also used as an opportunity to offer the participants a taste of Sri Lankan delicacies and a glimpse of the country’s legendary hospitality.

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