Muscat: Sri Lanka expects 20,000 tourist arrivals from Oman in 2016, according to Deepal Pallegangoda, Country Manager Oman, Mihin Lanka, talking during a Sri Lanka Tourism road show at Al Falaj Hotel on Sunday.
Pallegangoda noted that there was a 67 per cent increase in the number of Omanis travelling to Sri Lanka in 2014, compared
“In 2015, 14,216 tourists from Oman visited Sri Lanka, and we hope that number will touch 20,000 this year. Because of the economic crisis, many people will shun holidays in Europe and, instead, look for cheaper options, like Sri Lanka, where they can have greater value for their money,” he said.
Talking about main markets in the Gulf, Pallegangoda mentioned that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are the main source of tourists from the Gulf region for the island nation.
Other dignitaries present at the road show included M.K. Pathmanaathan, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Sultanate of Oman, Ajantha Rathnayake, Assistant Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Mrs Hiruni Rajapakse, Second Secretary, Sri Lanka Embassy and J.H. Liyanage, Minister of the Sri Lanka Embassy.
In his speech, Pathmanaathan said the embassy is committed to promoting Sri Lankan tourism in Oman, not only as a means of trade, but also to strengthen people to people links between the two countries. “Today, the tourism industry has become one of the priority sectors of the national economy of many countries in the world. The contribution of the tourism industry to the economy of both Oman and Sri Lanka is expected to significantly increase in the near future. The governments of both Sri Lanka and the Sultanate of Oman are committed to support the growth of the tourism industry through their own national programmes. The programmes will eventually be implemented by industry players, including tour operators,” he said.
He added, “Sri Lanka has been a familiar and preferred destination for Arabs, including Omanis, since ancient times. Sri Lanka’s location in the well-known maritime Silk Road of the Indian Ocean was a contributing factor for this attraction. This historical link and connectivity has not been promoted adequately among the present generation of Omanis. Many people in Oman, I was told, are not aware that Sri Lanka was popular in the ancient Arab world, and was called Serendib. It is widely believed that Omanis who are historically known for their ocean-going capabilities had visited Sri Lanka, then known as Serendib many centuries ago. Some even settled there. This is an important factor when we talk about relations between Oman and Sri Lanka.”
Citing The Master Card – Crescent Rating Global report, he said Sri Lanka was named one of the top 10 destination for Muslim tourists to visit and is expected to increase tourist arrivals to 4.5 million by 2020. “Sri Lanka has signed up with leading international hotel chains, such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Cooperation, Movenpick Hotels, Shangri La, Ananthara, ICT, and others to increase its room capacity,” he added.
Mihin Lanka launched service on the Muscat-Colombo sector on October 25 last year after its sister airline, Sri Lankan Airlines, ceased flying this route.
According to Pallegangoda, Colombo is emerging as a tourism and trade hub in South Asia. “We plan to promote the country by providing affordable travel options. More passengers are travelling to Dhaka and the Maldives, apart from the Far East and China, using Mihin Lanka.
“I think that this summer more people will travel to Sri Lanka, India and Far East countries, compared to Europe, as these countries provide affordable options,” Pallegangoda added.