Tourism Investment opportunities in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s tourism chief is urging European businessmen to capitalize on the island's investment opportunities.
The Indian Ocean Island is experiencing a boom in tourists and leisure industry related-developments, three-years after government forces ended the decade’s long conflict with Tami Tiger terrorists
Many international chains have put down cash to build hotels and resorts across the tropical island, while the government sets about building infrastructure to support the tourism boom.
Nalaka Godahewa, who heads Sri Lanka's Tourism Development Authority, said while European businessmen pass-up an opportunity to invest in Sri Lanka, Chinese and Indian investors have moved in to fill the void.
"Ours is a virgin market. Unfortunately what’s happening is the Europeans are holding back," Godahewa was quoted in an interview with a British newspaper. "By the time the European investors come, it may be too late. So my message is come and see for yourself and grab the opportunity now," he said.
International hotel chains like Hong Kong-based Shangri-La, the Sheraton and Four Seasons have signed up to develop luxury properties in Sri Lanka. In 2010, Sri Lanka had some 22,000 hotel beds, enough to accommodate about 900,000 tourists. By 2015, Sri Lanka plans to add 45,000 rooms.
"There are other requirements, things like theme parks, racecourses, casinos, yachts, marinas, and light aircrafts. There are so many things that are not there yet and can be built in the next three to four years."
Since the war ended in 2009, Sri Lanka has forecasted a five-fold increase of 2.5 million foreign visitors by 2016, who will generate some 2.75 billion dollars in revenues.
While English is widely spoken throughout the island, the tourist board is encouraging people to learn Chinese. "We are promoting the Chinese language, as by 2035 China will be the largest economy in the world."
Godahewa said tourism promotions are now centered on “eight experiences within eight days. There are eight types of tourism products that we promote: business, heritage, wildlife, yoga and religious tourism, festivals, sports and adventure, scenic beauty, and the eighth is our essence, the feeling of being in Sri Lanka, our customs, costumes, dancers, music, and the smile."
Historically, Europe, led by Germany and the UK, has been Sri Lanka’s strongest tourism market. But the number of holidaymakers from those destinations slipped during the war on terrorism. Sri Lanka has since turned to emerging markets like India, China, Russia and the Middle East to fill hotel rooms.
"We are a primarily European driven market ….. The UK is a key market, and remains our second biggest market after India," Godahewa added.
- Asian Tribune –