Sri Lanka could well be the Bengali’s Durga Puja holiday destination this year with efforts being made to promote tourism from India’s eastern zone in the country. At a recent meeting held at the Merchant’s Chamber of Commerce of Industry (MCCI) Kumar De Silva, the Chairman of Sri Lankan Convention Bureau (under Ministry of Tourism, Govt of Sri Lanka) and Lalit Peiris, the Country Manager, Sri Lankan Airlines based on the theme, ‘Showcase and Promote Sri Lanka as a Destination for Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition (MICE)’. There is growing cooperation between Sri Lanka and India. The target markets for MICE are cities close to Sri Lanka.
There are two hotel projects in Sri Lanka by India companies, ITC Ltd and Emami Group. Emami Group has, in fact, built the tallest tower in Sri Lanka. India is Sri Lanka’s largest source market for tourists. On record, 3.84 lakh people from India visited Sri Lanka last year and 4 lakh visitors are expected to visit this year. Most of the tourists come from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.
Lalit Peiris informed that Kolkata and Colombo are connected by direct flights, thrice a week in normal times but increases to four flights during Durga Puja season. Sri Lanka is hoping to penetrate in the eastern zone in India. Peiris said that they are expecting 20,000 tourists this year from Kolkata.
Ramesh Agarwal, the President of MCCI, said that Sri Lanka has long been a priority destination for direct investment from India and one of India’s largest trading partners in SAARC. Bilateral trade between the countries reached US$ 5.25 billion in 2017-18 registering an increase of 16.24%. India is among the top four investors in Sri Lanka with total investments over US$ 1 billion since 2003. Several new investments from Indian companies are in the pipeline or under implementation.