North American Tour Operators re-discover Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka gears up for the arrival of more tourists in peacetime, a campaign to showcase the island as a tourist destination of great value to potential leisure travellers in the USA and Canada was kicked-off last month.

Visitors to Sri Lanka from the USA and Canada between January – August rose by 25.2 percent and 21.1 percent respectively in 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, registering a positive swing to discover the much-talked about paradise island in the Indian Ocean. Several agents are now keen to re-discover Sri Lanka’s long denied attractions for leisure seekers and the country’s renewed appeal for the large segment of ethnic travellers, resulting from the progressive stance taken by the government to reconcile and re-build the nation.

SriLankan Airlines’ Chairman, Mr Nishantha Wickremasinghe said “the airline welcomes the move by travel and tourism promoters to win the hearts of the discerning American travellers and on behalf of the airline I pledge full support to promote Sri Lanka in the USA and Canada”.

The Chairman continued “there is no better time to invest in the North American region as SriLankan Airlines is set to expand its business in several areas including the purchase of new aircraft, introduction of new destinations, increased frequencies and the commencement of the air taxi operations”.

CEO of Sri Lanka Travel Inc. Mr Dillan Ariyawansa said “We are eager to bring Sri Lanka back on to the map as a tourism hotspot as we have kept travellers away from this little isle for too long”.

Responding to this call, and for the first time after decades, nine reputed Tour Operators from North America and Canada embarked on a whirlwind 5-day familiarisation tour conducted by United Holidays, to experience a few of Sri Lanka’s many attractions, combining the Cultural Triangle and its World Heritage Sites; Wildlife Sanctuaries; historic City of Kandy; famous Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage; salubrious tea country in Nuwara Eliya; sandy beaches of Bentota and cosmopolitan Colombo.

Sri Lanka is being recognised as a ‘new destination’, especially considering the recent article in the New York Times, which listed Sri Lanka as First, among the ’31 Top Destinations to Travel in 2010′. Similarly, the National Geographic ranked Sri Lanka second among its ‘Top 25 Places to visit in 2010’. These endorsements, among others, have triggered a renewed interest in the leisure segments in USA and Canada, which are constantly seeking new, unique and exotic places to travel.

SriLankan Airlines is currently working in tandem with its interline partners’ American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines and Malaysian Airlines to provide connections to the airline’s gateway points in Europe and the Far East. SriLankan also offers convenient onward connections between the Colombo Hub and India’s popular IT cities.

The tour group included US agents’ Expedia, Eastquest Tours, Avia Tours, Orbitz and Canada agents’ Serendib Travel 1, Voyages Skylawn, Goway Travel, Jet Travel and Voyages Professionals Canora. The agents’ tour culminated in the SriLankan Airlines’ Agents Awards Night for North America sponsored by the airline’s General Sales Agent, Sri Lanka Travel Inc. at the Galadari Hotel where the best performing agents were feted.

SriLankan Airlines together with its General Sales Agent, Sri Lanka Travel Inc. and Sri Lanka Tourism are working together on a strategic plan geared for the North American and Canadian leisure market.

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