Sri Lankan Tourism Continues to Thrive

Sri Lankan Tourism Continues to Thrive

UN Tourism Chief Enthralled by Sigiriya

UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai was in Sri Lanka earlier this year to attend the 23rd Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific which was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 24-26 March 2011. Rifai made time to visit one of Sri Lanka’s most publicized attractions - the UNESCO designated World Heritage site of ‘Sigiriya’.

On climbing the rock, Dr. Rifai exclaimed “This a spiritual experience”. He went on to add, “The powerful imagery of the rock and the physical challenge of climbing to the top where one can feel the soul of Sri Lanka, is a truly powerful spiritual experience - monuments, history, gardens, galleries, serenity and nature can all be seen at Sigiriya. It is definitely a jewel and the heart of Sri Lanka. Time stops there and you have the chance to reflect.”

Dr. Rifai concluded “Sigiriya with its unique history, is on par with other historic monuments and is a must see treasure in anyone’s lifetime”.

UNWTO Meetings - Added Luster

UNWTO, in choosing Sri Lanka and the Colombo Hilton, as the venue to host the 23rd Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for South Asia and the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, the august body, paid tribute to destination Sri Lanka and added luster to Sri Lanka Tourism’s Refreshingly Sri Lanka promotion campaign, where March celebrations focused on the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector.

The annual sessions were held in conjunction with the UNWTO Conference on ‘Mainstreaming Tourism in the Media’, which focused on tourism’s role in countering adverse publicity and in image building of a country in socio-politically challenging times. The attendance and participation by a number of key tourism experts and senior journalists from both local and international media added an impetus for Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions, who had much experience in marketing the destination during a long and challenging time. It was an opportunity to present the destination in the current calm, stress free, visitor friendly environment, where now the whole of the country from Dondra in the deep South to Point Pedro the northern most tip of Sri Lanka is accessible by all.

The speakers at the forum on ‘Mainstreaming Tourism in the Media’ were eminent international media personalities - Marcelo Risi, Dr. Victor Wee, Alejandro Ossa, Susan Warren, Simon Calder and Zoltan Somogyi with UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Refai in the chair.                                                                     

It was a great opportunity for Sri Lanka Tourism to showcase two of its newest value additions to the visitor experience - ‘The Viceroy Express’ steam engine train, and the Jetliner Cruise - while Sri Lankan dances and fashion parades added colour and glamour to the evening functions. Sri Lanka’s nature, culture, and adventure tourism offer was invitingly available for those who wanted to mix business with pleasure.

Media Rapture over True Picture

Journalists and others, representing media in Sri Lanka for the UNWTO sessions, took off and away from Colombo to experience the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, the Dambulla cave temple, and Sigiriya. From witnessing glories of the past the group went on to get a touch and feel of today, in visiting Nuwara Eliya - the tea plantations and the factories.

Visiting the Yala National Park, media representatives encountered elephants in the wild, a giant tusker, peacocks, wild boar, deer, crocodiles, and a variety of birds. They were also delighted by the prized privilege of spotting the rare big cat - a leopard.  On the coastal route, Stilt fishing in Tangalle was captured on camera, along with the joy of the sun, sea and sand experience, and finally boarding a sea plane from Galle bound to Colombo, with a birds eye view of the South and the West. The crew left with pictures and memories of serendipity that is Sri Lanka.

The 11-member UNWTO media crew came from some of the world’s leading travel and leisure magazines and TV channels - BBC-UK, Conde Nast Traveller, Siete Leguas, La Republica and the Daily Mail.

For more information on upcoming events and themes throughout the year in Sri Lanka, please visit


Material taken from "Sri Lanka Calling", Volume 3, Number 6. Accessed Online.