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Sri Lanka looks to draw Indian tourists from MICE sector back

Sigiriya Lion Rock fortress and landscape in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya Lion Rock fortress and landscape in Sri Lanka.  

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Country targets Mumbai, Pune to boost MICE sector

Sri Lanka is doing its best to attract tourists to the island in the wake of the deadly Easter bombings in April.

With the objective of promoting itself as a destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions or MICE tourism, an event called, ‘Meet in Sri Lanka’ was organised in the city this month by the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), an arm of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Affairs, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Consulate General.

“India is the key source market for the development of MICE business to Sri Lanka. With our current mission, we are targeting key markets of India like Mumbai and Pune. There is a strong cultural bond and cooperation between India and Sri Lanka, which makes Indian travellers feel at home when they are in Sri Lanka,” said Malkanthi Welikala, manager marketing of SLCB.

Officials said Sri Lanka’s tourism industry witnessed a drastic dip in revenue after the terror attack, bringing down its estimated revenue to $3.5 billion in 2019 from $4.4 billion in 2018.

Between January and September, India’s share of tourists to Sri Lanka, which is the highest tourism marker for the country, dipped to 2,41,666 from 3,01,784 in 2018 and the brunt of this decline was faced by the MICE industry. MICE accounts for 8% to 10% of the total tourism industry in Sri Lanka, and 10% of this is contributed by India alone.

“Just after the [terror] incident we saw some MICE cancellations, but now we are recovering,” Ms. Welikala said. She was accompanied in a panel discussion by Chamari Rodrigo, consulate general of Sri Lanka and Ruwan Wijjekoon, manager, western India, Sri Lankan Airlines.

Ms. Welikala maintained that the industry was showing definite signs of improvement over the past few months and would hopefully recover completely by next year. The officials said they believe this was a direct result of the immediate security measures taken up by the country as well concessions that it is offering to tourists.

Responding to a query on the potential impact on international perception, and in turn the MICE industry in the event of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s electoral win in the forthcoming presidential elections, Ms. Rodrigo opined that there would be no adverse effect. Mr. Rajapaksa faces lawsuits for torture during the Sri Lankan civil war, “He [Rajapaksa] is the one who ended the war and India became our top source market after that.”

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 4:15:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/sri-lanka-looks-to-draw-indian-tourists-from-mice-sector-back/article30101139.ece

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