The Press Conference of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) at ITB 2023 held on 8th March, was well-attended by the German media. The interest of German media to participate at Sri Lanka press conference was an encouragement for Sri Lanka to be back fast on the travel map.
The Panel at the Head Table consisted of Hon. Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism & Lands, H.E. Varuni Muthukumarana, Ambassador of Sri Lanka for Germany, Chalaka Gajabahu, Chairman SLTPB, Dushan Wickramasuriya, Director Marketing, SLTPB. The Tourism industry was represented on the panel by Nalin Jayasundara Vice President, Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), M Shanthikumar, President, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) and Dimuthu Tennakone, Head of Worldwide sales of Sri Lankan Airlines.
The press conference was timely in the current context of disturbance and was a fitting platform to inform the media on the accurate and latest situation in the country and to negate any negative sentiments echoed in the international arena.
In her speech, H. E. Ambassador of Sri Lanka for Germany, Ms, Waruni Muthukumarana expressed that Germany has been a good friend of Sri Lanka, helping a lot in Political, Economic, Bilateral and many other aspects. ‘’Tourism is a major component of our Economic Contribution. Participating at the ITB is a very important aspect for the German Market, as you are aware it is after 3 years it is happening physically. Sri Lanka waits to welcome the German travelers, and apart from the natural beauty of our country, which attracts German travelers and travelers from other countries, what keeps bringing them back repeatedly is the warm hospitality of the people, cultural aspects, the sea, wildlife, and so on. So I hope all of you, at some point of your career, can visit Sri Lanka, experience it firsthand ‘’. She concluded.
Mr. Chalaka Gajabahu , Chairman , Sri Lanka Tourism , also expressed his views on this occasion. He thanked the audience for attending the conference and reiterated on the Ambassadors speech, mentioning that Germany has been a very traditional market for Sri Lanka Tourism, especially as Europe includes three main countries such as Germany, UK and France. He highlighted the fact that during the first 8 days of March 2023, Germany has overtaken UK in arrivals, which is a very good sign for Tourism. ‘In terms of marketing Sri Lanka from a media point of view, it’s very important that we connect all audiences, traditionally we have got repeat travelers, lot on wellness too. Apart from that, there are so many categories that we have to offer, whether if it’s adventure, Romance, Marine, Culture, and there’s so much we can do. ‘’he said. He mentioned that from a social media point of view, this year, that the SLTPB is focusing on nine markets, and Germany is in the top three. Currently Sri Lanka Tourism is working on bringing journalists, influencers, vloggers and bloggers to Sri Lanka, whereas there is a project initiated by the SLTPB and the private sector, along with Sri Lankan Airlines, and the need to bring key influencers, journalists from Germany to Sri Lanka on a tour, specializing in any category, adventure, wellness etc. Sri Lanka Tourism is going through a short term process and the initial pilot project is going to be Germany and France, backed by the EU.
The Hon. Minister of Tourism, Harin Fernando addressing the gathering expressed that Sri Lanka is a resilient nation, going through a lot of challenges in its 75 years of Independence. Due to negative publicity on social media, countries get the wrong impression of Sri Lanka with negative and misinformation. ‘’At the crisis time we were able to manage tourists. We were able to give them a special fuel quota, electricity was supplied. Sri Lanka also showed a good example during Covid 19. There were many people who were stuck and stranded in the country, and there were Sri Lankan communities who kept foreigners for months until the country was open’’The Hon. Minster expressed. He encouraged the audience to make their next booking to Sri Lanka, an opportunity that they will not regret. He also mentioned the launching a tourism app, where visitors will be able to view all the security features as they land in Sri Lanka, including all the restaurants, tuk tuks, tickets to wildlife parks, tickets to various other local attractions. It will also be in seven languages, plus a call center for any tourist 24/7.
Mr. Dimuthu, Tennakone, Head of Worldwide services of Sri Lankan Airlines, made his contribution by highlighting that an MOU has been signed with Deutshe Bahn to sell Sri Lankan air tickets through 5600 train stations in Germany, Brussels and Austria, Switzerland, facilities are provided to purchase tickets via Frankfurt to Sri Lanka. he said that there are 3 flights a week from Frankfurt to Sri Lanka.
The Chief Editor of a reputed German magazine who visited Sri Lanka three months ago on a media familiarization tour hosted by Sri Lanka Tourism, shared his experience in the country giving an endorsement of the destination and the diversity. He specifically mentioned about the Boutique hotels and the great hospitality which they offered, from guest houses to first class hotels, were of the highest standard. He mentioned that it is really worth visiting the destination because of the variety, diversity and the determination for the people to get back and rejuvenate tourism.
The German press engaged in question & answer session and showed interest on the diversity of the products offered by destination Sri Lanka. Including visa, tourism development in the North & East, marine tourism and the Pekoe trail. Thus the second press conference hosted by Sri Lanka Tourism at the ITB concluded on a positive note, encouraging the German travelers to consider about their next holiday destination.