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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sri Lanka Tourism launches home stay programme

To supplement the demand for accommodation at various tourist destinations in the country, Sri Lanka Tourism launched the Home Stay and Bungalow program adding another exciting segment to present accommodation categories. 
At present Sri Lanka Tourism has recognized 1-5 star class hotels, guest houses, Ayurveda hotels, eco lodges, apartment hotels, boutique villas and hotels, and camping sites. Commenting on the Home Stay and Bungalow program, Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism said: "This is a different approach to provide clean, comfortable and affordable supplementary accommodation to tourists. They will have an opportunity of an engaging experience of customs, traditions, authentic cuisine and other attractions of the location, while staying with the local host, thus giving them a memorable experience during their holiday; and it will help us to reinforce one of  our key  pillars in positioning, the 'Authenticity' of our tourism product".   Home Stay and Bungalows once approved by the Standards & Quality Assurance division of Sri Lanka Tourism will be duly publicized. An accommodation guide listing all registered Home Stay properties and Bungalows will be issued to enable both domestic and foreign tourists to avail themselves of this facility.
Sri Lanka Holiday Homes www.srilankastay.com
The objectives of the program are to provide accreditation to the Home Stay and Bungalow category, broaden the stakeholders base in tourism, expand the benefits of tourism to the community, as well as to support the demand for supplementary accommodation in urban areas, and provide employment and economic benefits to the local community.
Sri Lanka received 654,000 tourists in 2010. This figure is expected to go up to 750,000 tourists (in 2011). The Home Stay and Bungalow program is expected to generate about 1000-1500 rooms immediately.
Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said "The Mahinda Chinthana has clearly identified that benefits of all economic development will have to go down to the common people. The Home Stay program will enable the community to get directly involved in the tourism industry and derive its benefits, and will further enable us to take tourism to a higher level of success".
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has come out with criteria to inspect and register such establishments and all required information can either be collected from the Quality Assurance division or downloaded from www.sltds.gov.lk .
Commenting on the new scheme Dileep Mudadeniya, Head of Standards & Quality Assurance and Investment said: "New rooms which are under construction will take another 2 years to   come to the market. But we have untapped potential for Home Stays and Bungalows that can be turned immediately into accommodation units to meet the immediate demand. Further, this is a well known accommodation category in Europe, and even in India, and our visitors are familiar with the concept.''
While any  private house in good condition with owners occupying the same house and located in an easily accessible part of the country will primarily qualify to register as a Home Stay unit, unoccupied houses with cooking/meals (and other guest service) facilities are categorized as Bungalows. The house shall fulfill the minimum requirements of the Home Stay scheme including having one or more rooms for accommodation, with each room having separate attached bathroom facilities. Interested parties are at liberty to submit fresh proposals for approval for setting up Home Stay/Bungalow units in suitable locations, under the supervision Sri Lanka Tourism.  As part of the program  Sri Lanka Tourism will also be providing a training for all Bungalow and Home Stay owners  covering areas such as on-line marketing, house keeping, cooking with focus on guest satisfaction, kitchen hygiene, storage of food, garbage disposal,  preparation of authentic cuisine, emergencies etc .
Venture Holiday Home www.srilankastay.com 
Etisalat has come forward to promote and distribute this concept via a dedicated portal. "In the current context, the online medium has by-passed many traditional channels and real world barriers reaching the global customer at a minimal cost. Home-stay portal will enable local property owners to market their home-stay online and attract potential tourists with just a click. In the long run, we are aiming at providing knowledge to them which will help them in improving their services and standards. Our vision & mission had always been geared towards extending people's reach via advanced technologies. I strongly believe that this initiative will be a success and we are delighted and honored to be part of this initiative to empower Sri Lanka tourism sector to be the wonder of Asia" CEO Etisalat Sri Lanka, Dumindra Rathnayaka said.
Regional Development Bank (RDB ) has come forward to provide limited  loan assistance for the concept. Commenting on the program Chairperson of the RDB Janaki Kuruppu, said "At RDB we believe in Empowering Sri Lankans" to achieve economic development of their families.  We are the only 100% GOSL owned bank serving the real SME sector, with a reach of over 200 service points in rural Sri Lanka alone.  We are always on the lookout for ventures that will appeal to our target customers.  We feel the type of household that will go for this "Home Stay" concept will be very much within the reach of our customer base and will be a great opportunity for them.  This is the only way that the country's macro economic growth can be shared with the common people."
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) invites all Sri Lankans who have well located, attractive and suitable bungalows and homes, with minimum required standards, in various parts of the island to come and register with Sri Lanka Tourism.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sri Lanka - Emerging destination

After a cautious 2010, tour operators and travellers are once more in search of unique experiences and good value. The destinations to watch are those that offer both.

Emerging from troubled times is Sri Lanka, where 30 years of on-off civil war ended with a no-holds-barred government offensive in spring 2009. Package tourism on the west coast beaches had always held up, but with peace has come a push to expand capacity and open new regions. Yala and Wilpattu National Parks – Asia’s best places to see leopards – have recently reopened, as have the surf-mecca beaches of Arugam Bay.

Firmly ticking those boxes is the kingdom of Jordan, long a favourite of independent travellers but increasingly a flag-bearer for mainstream tourism to the Arab world. With luxury hotels springing up in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, eco-tourism flourishing in the country’s nature reserves, and low-cost airline Easyjet launching direct flights from the UK in March, the country looks like strong competition for Egypt or Dubai.

Even in 2011, pockets of Europe remain thrillingly unfamiliar. One of this year’s most intriguing prospects is Albania – partly for its quiet, affordable Mediterranean beaches, partly for its rugged landscape. For active types, the biggest buzz is around the “Accursed Mountains” of the country’s far north – an isolated region of serrated 2,600m peaks populated by bears and wolves, with farming villages rich in folklore.

Peru has a huge year ahead. In July the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu celebrates 100 years since its rediscovery. Those averse to hoop-la might be better off exploring northern Peru, home to equally impressive hikes, historical sites and a new cultural tour, the Moche Route.

For wildlife enthusiasts, 2011’s hottest ticket is Zimbabwe. Two years ago the country seemed near collapse: cholera was claiming thousands of lives and hyperinflation was churning out trillion-dollar-bills worth £20. But a coalition government, a dollar economy and improved public health have resulted in a queue of tour operators keen to rejuvenate tourism in what was once southern Africa’s adventure capital. And the prospects for visitors are juicy: thunderous Victoria Falls, the ancient granite kopje of the Matobo Hills, and superb wildlife viewing – Hwange National Park alone boasts 40,000 elephants

Courtesy - FT.com

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sri Lanka: 7-star hotel from Shangri-La

Hong Kong hotel chain Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which specializes in luxury hotels, in 2011 will begin construction of 7-star hotel on Sri Lanka. The agreement with the Sri Lankan government to acquire ownership of 10 acres of land near Colombo - Galle Face - is already signed. Until then this site was owned by the Ministry of National Defense.

Chairman of the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Agency (SLTDA) Dr. Nalaka Godahewa told the Daily News Business and the Island Financial Review that at this site in 2011 to begin to work a 7-star Shangri-La, and the total amount of investment of the Hong Kong group will be about $ 500 million.

Currently, Shangri-La group, which is engaged in hotel business since 1971 and has become one of the leaders of the industry, owns about 70 hotels and resorts in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North America. It has more than 30.000 rooms and suites of various categories. In addition, the group is building new hotels in such countries as Canada, Australia, Britain, Turkey, China, India, Macau, Philippines, Turkey and the Seychelles.

Mr Godaheva expressed confidence in the success of the joint project, and noted its exceptional importance for the development of tourist infrastructure in the country: "This is a landmark achievement for the government of Sri Lanka. Such mega-investments undoubtedly strengthen investor confidence and create a more attractive investment image of the country. Also the chairman of the Tourism Agency reported that there were applications from other hotel chains to build two more 7-star hotels on land belonging to private individuals.

It should be noted that shortly before the Sri Lankan government has opened a tender for construction of ten artificial islands around the Kalpitiya coast. At the moment it received 11 bids from investors from around the world. The results should be announced by the organizing committee appointed by the government as early as this weekend. It is assumed that the project will be able to attract investments of U.S. $ 500 million.

Also, in order to attract tourists to the island of Sri Lanka and increase interest around the world SLTDA planned to conduct in 2011 a large-scale promotional campaign, which was called 'Visit Sri Lanka'. Each month of the year will be devoted to a particular topic, which promotes a holiday on this paradise island. It is assumed that as a result of this campaign the group will achieve 31-percent increase in attendance, and the total number of visitors of the island will be more than 750.000 people per year.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Online Sri Lankan visas soon

Sri Lanka will shift its visa issuance operations to the internet in the new year “as early as possible.” This means that the visa-on-arrival facility will not be available from the time that the online visa process begins.
Asked about the date when the process will begin, one source in the presidential secretariat told The Hindu that the shift had been authorised by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday. “I am not aware of the modalities. But it will be from early next year. This will save a lot of visitors the trouble of going to a Sri Lankan mission in their countries, for their visas,” he added.
The Controller of Immigration and Emigration would work out the details. The President has instructed the Controller to work out an online visa regime that was simple and secure. Now, a foreign national can enter Sri Lanka if he/she holds a return air ticket and sufficient funds. Tourists from most countries are granted landing visa for 30 days at the port of entry in Sri Lanka. It is also possible to extend the visa for two months over and above the 30-day period, but this will only be done at the Immigration and Emigration head office.
It was on August 27 that Sri Lanka first announced suspension of visa-on-arrival facility extended to citizens of 79 countries, including India. The announcement was to take effect from September 30. The reasoning was to extend the visa-on-arrival facility only to those countries that reciprocate this facility. Travellers from Singapore and Maldives were exempt from this since both these countries reciprocate. Citizens of these countries are exempt from the new online process too.
However, the implementation of the scheme was delayed because of the apprehensions expressed by the tourism industry.
Tourists visiting Sri Lanka have increased manifold after the end of a three-decade war in May last year. The number of tourists went up 63.1 per cent to 72,251 in November 2010, compared with the same period the previous year.
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