The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is to host its annual conference in Sri Lanka’s east-coast beach resort of Passikudah in July.

Says tourism minister John Amaratunga: “Over 200 delegates from all over the world will attend this conference and the international media exposure for the event would provide much needed publicity to the region opening up Passikudah to the world.”

He was addressing the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Sri Lanka Tourism at the BMICH conference centre in Colombo, where he said that MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) tourism is thriving, and expected to grow significantly over the next few years.

He said: “We see huge growth potential for this segment, especially from India and China. In a very encouraging development, the leading French travel association, JEV [formally called SNAV] has decided to hold its annual congress for 2016 in Sri Lanka.

“This is a huge moral booster for the industry and one that will translate into considerable growth in the French market over the next few years. This year will further highlight the growth of the MICE segment.”

He said that the situation is helped by airlines operating to Sri Lanka. “We are very encouraged by the re-entry of KLM and our intention is to increase the number of daily flights, which currently stands at around 75 to 100 in the near future,” he said.

He added that in this Golden Jubilee year, the government hopes to achieve tourism revenue of $3.5 billion from 2.5 million visitors.

Says the WTO on its website: “It is relevant that Sri Lanka was one of the pioneering countries in Asia to develop its tourism industry on a firm and planned basis”, and that “the opportunities for tourism development are great”.

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