The SriLankan Airlines’ Global Sales Conference came to a successful conclusion having showcased the country’s readiness for tourism to over 150 of the world’s premier travel agents and tour operators during a four-day programme. The conference drew the largest contingent from the international travel trade to Sri Lanka in recent history. The assemblage experienced Sri Lanka’s top-rated tourist attractions firsthand before convening in Sigiriya to learn about the outlook of Sri Lanka as a destination that is not just magnificent, but safe and more than ready to receive global travellers to its shores.
Foreign General Sales Agents of the airline and SriLankan Holidays’ Franchise Operators also participated in the symposium in addition to travel trade industry representatives. A thoughtfully designed sightseeing tour preceded the conference, with visitors taking in highlights such as the Yala National Park; Ella; Kandy; Galle; Beruwala; Sigiriya; Nuwara Eliya; Habarana; Polonnaruwa; Anuradhapura; Ritigala; Negombo; and Colombo.
Fresh off the tour, the group joined the main conference on 18 November 2022 at the Aliya Resort, where they were given an opportunity to share positive experiences of the tour with the audience. They also engaged with several interactive sessions led by officials of SriLankan Airlines and industry experts. Sessions included a history on SriLankan Airlines; Sri Lanka’s status as a destination for transformative travel; and the premier of destination video, ‘Around the Island.’
Eminent guest speakers, Alexandre Debanne, founder of Raid Amazones and Piyush Minocha, a Sr. Business Development Manager of the Expedia Group, spoke on marketing Sri Lanka to French travellers and Sri Lanka’s potential for sustainable tourism, respectively. The conference wrapped up with a panel discussion involving Richard Nuttall, Chief Executive Officer and Dimuthu Tennakoon, Head of Worldwide Sales & Distribution from SriLankan Airlines and Chalaka Gajabahu, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and moderated by Dileep Mudadeniya, Senior Vice President Global Alliances & Partnerships, John Keells Group Leisure sector.
A special feature of the conference was the Sri Lankan craft fair that was held at the venue, exhibiting traditional arts and crafts of local artisans. The global travel trade audience was thus introduced to cultural crafts of the island such as making of pottery, drums, brassware, ethnic jewellery and wooden masks.
Kumar Vellore Jagadeesan, General Manager of Anta Travels, India said, “Throughout our stay in Sri Lanka, we were overwhelmed by the hospitality and care that were extended to us. This is what makes Sri Lanka stand apart from the rest; the inherent caring ways of its people that make a traveller wish that his holiday never ends.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Kanwal Faizal Zia, Head of Business Development, Executive Aviation Pakistan added, “It did not take long for me to realize that irrespective of what is being said and spoken about Sri Lanka in the media, the country is absolutely beautiful and safe. Now, I want to come back every year. I am sure once you explore Sri Lanka, you would feel it too.”
Further, for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, a travel mart inspired by leading global travel events such as the World Travel Market (WTM) in London and ITB Berlin, was organized on the day following the conference. The travel mart afforded a priceless opportunity for local Destination Management Companies and tour operators to meet and explore commercial opportunities with the visiting foreign travel agents.
Ashok Pathirage, Chairman, SriLankan Airlines remarked, “SriLankan Airlines has done it once again, by taking the initiative and laying the groundwork to accelerate the recovery and growth of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. I am certain that the synergism created in the last few days will contribute towards realizing the national vision to transform Sri Lanka into a high-value destination in the years ahead.”
“It is great that so many top international agents came together to support this one-of-a-kind endeavour by SriLankan Airlines to reassure the world that Sri Lanka remains a safe and fascinating place to visit. Sri Lanka was recently recognized as one of the world’s friendliest countries. However, the reality is that Sri Lanka has always been warm and welcoming, and the people of this wonderful country have always looked after its visitors. It is pleasing to know that the visiting agents got to experience this first-hand and intend to promote Sri Lanka extensively in their home markets,” added Richard Nuttall, Chief Executive Officer of the airline.
Dimuthu Tennakoon, Head of Worldwide Sales & Distribution of SriLankan Airlines stated, “Our main intent is to draw more visitors to Sri Lanka, and this occasion will undoubtedly help drive this cause and realize our performance objectives. I would also like to thank all the different teams at SriLankan Airlines that worked tirelessly to make this conference the resounding success that it turned out to be. There have been good signs of progress in the revival of tourism in Sri Lanka after a challenging period, and the discussions and opportunities that spun off of this conference between the various industry stakeholders, will only serve to increase the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka.”
With the conclusion of the SriLankan Airlines’ Global Sales Conference, the airline looks forward to an on-target performance this winter, and the numbers look promising. SriLankan Airlines currently offers passenger services to 114 destinations in 60 countries through online and codeshare operations.