A big boost for tourism in Sri Lanka has been signalled by its winning bid to stage the French Travel Congress, when 500 members of Les Journées des Entrepreneurs du Voyages (JEV) arrive in Colombo.
Sunday Times writer Vipula Winigasekera reports that “this would be a huge turning point in this segment of MICE [meetings, incentive travel, conferences and exhibitions] or what they call ‘I’ of the MICE”.
JEV represents 1,400 tour agencies across France, of which most have sizeable stakes in MICE, which Sri Lanka tends to regard as separate from the normal run of holiday tourism.
Winigasekera notes that “Sri Lanka’s plan to become the gateway to South Asia is commendable as such an event has brought benefits to the country in the past, even during the troubled times.
“It is heartening to see the readiness of the current Minister in charge of Tourism and officials to implement such programmes, without which Sri Lanka tourism will lose out to competitors in the growing overall market.”
He adds that MICE is developing into a highly profitable sector of the market. “With a mere 23,000 visitors in 2008, MICE has recorded over 168,000 in the year 2015 with an income generation of over US$650 million into the tourism income.
“MICE tourists represent the upmarket and spend 3-4 times over average holidaymakers, MICE visits generate repeat holidays with families and friends, and MICE industry requires additional support services such as venues, service providers, entertainment, etc.”
He concludes: “The future of MICE for Sri Lanka is promising. Although MICE itself is a complex business, understanding the different strategies for separate components of MICE will resolve many issues as to the direction of the tourism authorities.”
Meanwhile, the Khaleej Times in Dubai is also extolling Sri Lanka’s MICE potential in an interview with Charitha Yattogoda, Consul-General of Sri Lanka in Dubai and Northern Emirates.
It reports Yattogoda as saying: “Sri Lanka now enjoys absolute peace and because of that, we can see a big impact on tourism, with numbers increasing in a grand way.
“The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has set a target to increase tourism by four million arrivals and up to $10 billion in revenue by 2020.
“At the moment, we have reached around $3 billion and are aiming to increase this in the years to come.” Opportunities for the MICE industry would contribute towards this goal.
The paper notes that “ongoing property development, well-connected highways and state-of-the-art infrastructure, coupled with efforts of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, are positioning Sri Lanka as an attractive destination for business meetings”.
And with a nod to the growing Gulf and Middle East tourism markets, it adds that “Arab families, in particular, are becoming more interested in Sri Lanka”.
“It is great for short breaks, with beautiful boutique hotels that provide big rooms for the entire family with bungalows, complete with ultimate privacy and butlers at their service.”