The Gulf region’s largest travel event, Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) now in its 30th edition concluded last week where in an exclusive interactive interview with the Travel & Food Network, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, spoke about how the economic crisis is behind them and how Sri Lanka is preparing to welcome 1.7 to 2 million tourists in 2023 by launching the right initiatives to attract ‘quality’ tourists from around the globe. More excerpts from a delightful chat:
1. There has been a recent increase in tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka. Could you tell us more about it and how it compares to the pre-pandemic statistics?
Yes. There has been a significant increase of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka throughout the first quarter of the year. Up to April 2023, we have received a total of 441,177 tourist arrivals which shows a rapid change, for we only had 719,978 tourist arrivals up to December last year (2022) , and this is within the first quarter of the year. Compared with the number of arrivals we had during the Pre–Pandemic status, this is something we can be very happy about. This increase shows that Sri Lanka has got back to normalcy, despite the challenges it had to face last year and also due to the Covid Pandemic. Due to the continuous promotional effort done by Sri Lanka Tourism, this has been a success.
2. There were reports in the media of shortages of fuel and food items a few months back, and also high inflation. How is the situation now and can tourists be assured of a nice relaxing holiday with all essential requirements taken care of?
The issues which you mentioned earlier is history now. Do we see fuel or gas ques in the country? I need to mention that negative publicity was circulated through social media regarding the situation in Sri Lanka, so that the world was not aware of the real truth. With the initiatives taken by the present government, high priority has been given to tourism related projects as it is the highest foreign exchange earner to bring revenue to the country. The situation is very satisfactory and I assure you that Sri Lanka is safe and open for all tourists who want to enjoy the holiday of their choice. As a renowned travel destination, there is so much to enjoy and explore. Therefore, I invite all our travelers to come and spend some quality time in Sri Lanka, that you won’t regret it.
3. Which are the top 5 places that you would recommend for first time visitors to Sri Lanka in the current summer season?
My top 5 recommendations will be Kandy, Dambulla , Nuwara Eliya, Galle and Ella. All these locations have a unique story of their own, and the history and information which they have to give is immense.
4. Are there any special initiatives that the govt is taking to create a hassle free and memorable experience for tourists this year? Are there any new things that one can expect to see or experience in Sri Lanka this year?
Absolutely. We have created a very safe environment for all tourists to come and enjoy a fun filled holiday as much as they please. Sri Lanka is a destination which is blessed with everything, from amazing beaches to the lavish green mountains. Sri Lanka has a very rich and a historic culture which dates back to 2500 years, and there’s so much to see and visit. We as Sri Lanka Tourism have taken several measures to create a safe and secure environment for tourists, by improving infrastructure facilities, providing leisure entertainment activities, and offering special travel packages. There are a few more initiatives which we are planning to implement. Additionally, we also have this ongoing promotional campaign focusing on the key tourism markets. We are planning to develop adventure and film tourism, so we have a lot planned at the moment.
5. Food is a very important part of the experience of our readers – what are the must have authentic Sri Lankan dishes that you would recommend to our foodie travelers?
Don’t forget to try out our famous rice & curry of course! Lamprais, which originally is a Dutch specialty, Hoppers, Kottu Rotti, Milk rice with Lunu Miris, plus the street food is a must, if you visit Sri Lanka.
6. Any other useful information that you would like to share before we sign off
I would like to invite all our travelers across the globe to come and visit Sri Lanka,a beautiful island paradise located in the Indian ocean. It’s a year round compact destination, offering everything that a modern traveler would want. There is no any other country in the world which offers such unique hospitality and friendship, and you will not miss anything. Come and experience its uniqueness and take back memories which you will not forget for a life time.
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Sanjay has been navigating the stormy waters of the Indian media and entertainment industry for nearly 3 decades, and has worked with some of the leading Indian and international media brands in this time. His travels to various international destinations for work and leisure has led him to appreciate the connection between food and travel, and he likes to share his experiences through his articles on Travel and Food Network. He lives in Mumbai, but considers himself a global foodie-citizen.