The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh is aggressively promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination and plans to double Saudi tourist visits from 19,500 to 40,000 in the next three years.
The country plans to attract 100,000 Saudis over the long term said the country’s ambassador, Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, at the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion symposium at the Faisaliah Hotel in the capital on Sunday.
The event was held simultaneously in Jeddah and Dammam and sponsored by the Lankan mission in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Sri Lankan Airlines.
More than 15 Sri Lankan travel agents and hoteliers displayed their products and services at an exhibition held concurrently with the conference.
Krishnamoorthy said the government’s goal is to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016. He said tourism was one of the island’s most important industries.
He said Sri Lanka was an ideal destination for Saudi tourists because they prefer family holidays. “It is also famous for attracting honeymooners,” he said.
“Sri Lanka has more than 2,500 years of history and a rich culture. Sri Lankan spices and gems were well known globally for thousands of years. Sri Lanka was a main stop-over on the famous silk route connecting East and West,” the envoy said.
“It is a compact island which one can cover from end-to-end within four to five hours. This is a plus point because one can see many parts of the country and have a variety of experiences during a short time.”
He said Sri Lanka has a diverse range of attractions including beaches, Ayurveda medicine, sports and adventures, festivals, scenic beauty and wildlife. “Coming to Sri Lanka and spending one or two weeks will give the visitor a better experience than at a number of destinations around the world over a longer period of time.”
He said all visitors need visas, which are available within 24 hours at www.eta.gov.lk.
Ruwan Wijekoon, Sri Lankan airlines manager for the central province, said there are 12 flights going to-and-from Colombo from the three major airports of Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah. He many Saudis travel to Colombo but also find convenient connections to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and various cities in India.