COLOMBO: In an effort to revive the crisis-stricken country’s hospitality sector, officials and industry players said on Thursday that Sri Lankan tourism was taking special measures to attract more visitors from Middle Eastern countries.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has long been a significant contributor to the country’s GDP; in 2018, the industry brought in $4.4 billion. In 2020, however, due to the country’s severe setback caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, this figure dropped to 0.8%.
Sri Lanka declared 2022 the “Visit Sri Lanka Year” to prioritize the tourism industry in general as a means of recovering from the pandemic, but as the country fell deeper into its worst economic crisis in its history, it began to realign its strategies, prioritizing the Middle East and placing particular hope in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, most notably Saudi Arabia.
Madubhani Perera, marketing director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, told Arab News that the Arabian market is an important part of Sri Lanka’s overall tourism industry.
She stressed the importance of reassuring regional tourists that they will be treated with cultural sensitivity in Sri Lanka, and she urged businesses hoping to attract tourists from the region to base their future marketing efforts on fostering a sense of “safety and respect for their culture.”
Khalid Hamoud Nasser Al-Dasan Al-Qahtani, the Saudi ambassador in Colombo, agrees that the island nation could attract more Arab tourists if they were made to feel at ease during their visits.
Sri Lanka is highly recommended for visitors from the Kingdom…
The climate needs to be more welcoming to Arabs, he told Arab News, to increase its appeal.
Fazal Mohammed, CEO of Al-Araf Hotels and Resorts, is a 30-year veteran of the Saudi hospitality industry and a Sri Lankan native. During his time in Saudi Arabia, he has worked for prestigious hotel chains like the Fairmont and Raffles in Makkah and the Al-Faisaliah Hotel, one of the finest five-star hotels in Riyadh.
Mohammed’s latest endeavor is the opening of Horton Heights, a five-star hotel in the beautiful hill town of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka’s Central Province.
Mohammed told Arab News that the project was intended to attract wealthy tourists from the Middle East and that it would feature Arabic-speaking staff, extensive privacy features, and gourmet dining options to entice wealthy tourists from the region.
“Focus is also given to ensuring the Middle Eastern visitor’s daily lifestyle and habits are not disrupted,” he said. This includes providing “rooms and facilities to carry out daily prayers” and serving halal food.
Mohammed believes that the island nation of Sri Lanka has much to offer Arab tourists, particularly those hailing from the Persian Gulf, thanks to its rich history and convenient location.
Natural attractions such as Sri Lanka’s tropical beaches, lush forests, and stunning mountains are also very popular with Arab tourists, he said.
It’s true that a lot of tourists come here to get away from the noise and chaos of the city and have a peaceful, beautiful vacation. More and more people are visiting the island nation as adventure travelers.
Attempts by the island nation to attract more Arab tourists could give a much-needed boost to the economy and revive the tourism sector.
As Mohammed put it, “the potential for Arab visitors in Sri Lanka tourism is significant,” offering the country a chance to generate more money, more jobs, and more long-term economic growth.
By meeting the unique requirements of Arab visitors, Sri Lanka can cement its position as a regional leader and draw an increasing share of the Arab travel market.
To a lesser extent, favorable weather and close proximity also play a role in making this possible. There are numerous direct flights from the Middle East to Sri Lanka, and the island is conveniently located near the region.
Travel operator and former president of the Sri Lankan chapter of the International Air Transport Association M. Rizmi Reyal cited Sri Lanka’s geographical location as a major selling point for the island nation.
To attract visitors from the Middle East, Sri Lanka is an ideal destination. We expect to see a return of Arab tourists to Sri Lanka this year, after a hiatus of four years.