Big-spending business travellers are the backbone of MICE tourism (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) that Sri Lanka needs to connect and engage with.

But to do so, Colombo needs high-tech conference facilities big enough to handle large groups of high-end executives and attract them to our capital city.

At the same time, Colombo hoteliers are reportedly unhappy with the low occupancy yields from the MICE segment, which they believe has the potential for significant growth.

All of which is why the tourism ministry is pushing for renewed investment in an ambitious conference centre project to develop MICE tourism that was included in the last two government budgets.

Hoping to start work on new centre next year

Says the recently released Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020: “Colombo lacks capacity for events beyond an audience of 1,600. A new centre should be a hi-tech flexible space with seating capacity for 8,000 that can be reformatted for trade shows, indoor sporting events, concerts, performances and consumer shows and have adequate parking.”

The ministry is reportedly hoping to develop the convention centre within four years, with construction planned to begin in 2018.

Mirror Business reports that “the investment required for the project was not mentioned and it is not clear whether this will be a private sector project, a government-funded project or a public-private partnership (PPP).

MICE travel to Sri Lanka made up just 0.8 percent of the country’s 2.05 million arrivals in 2016, down from a 10-year high of 3 percent in 2006.

Business travel, which could also be considered as MICE travel, fell to 1.8 percent of total arrivals last year, down from a 10-year high of 17.8 percent, also in 2006.

Read more here.

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