London: Sri Lanka was the Premier Partner of WTM London 2019, which turned out to be a landmark event as the show celebrated 40 years of connecting travel professionals from around the world. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife & Christian Religious Affairs, inaugurated WTM London 2019 along with Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry suffered a setback following the Easter security incident. Speaking to the media, the Minister reiterated that the situation is now peaceful in Sri Lanka and it is safe to visit. “We had a tourism fallout of 70 per cent but the government was swift to act and we immediately concentrated on our own tourism businesses by granting moratoriums on loans and financial assistance packages. Safety and security aspects were prioritised and we launched special promotions in India, China and Thailand. We kick-started a ‘seeing is believing’ fact-finding program for the trade, inviting them to visit and see that it was ‘business as usual’. In addition, we took the decision to reduce aircraft landing fees, fuel charges and embarkation taxes. Most importantly, a visa fee waiver was granted for citizens of more than 48 countries. All these activities have brought the tourism industry back on track,” he said.

For Sri Lanka, India is the largest source market, due to its proximity and easy access. “China is our second largest source of business followed by the UK. Overall, our top ten markets bring almost 70 per cent of the arrivals. We are seeing an increased traction in segments like family holidays, wildlife and nature, wedding and honeymoons, and wellness and spa,” he said. Earlier this year, two major projects were completed in Sri Lanka – Lotus Tower in Colombo, which is Asia’s tallest tower and Jaffna International Airport. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (STPB) shared its exhibition space with 67 trade partners. It has also teamed up with cricketer Kumar Sangakkara, who is acting as a spokesperson.

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