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‘Hello Again’ virtual tourism awareness session held

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Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha has observed that the credibility Sri Lanka Tourism earned in caring for the tourists who made lengthy extensions of their stay in the country at the time COVID broke out, and Sri Lankan Airlines being one of the few carriers that continued to fly when most commercial airline fleets were grounded, should give confidence to international travelers to visit the island once again, now that travel for tourists has resumed.

Ambassador Aryasinha noted that prior to COVID curtailed global travel, tourist arrivals from the US had grown by 260% from 2010 to 2019, an annual average growth well over 20%, making the US one of the fastest-growing tourist arrival countries, which mainly drew niche tourists visiting and also staying longer.

The ambassador made these comments on January 27, when he hosted a virtual ‘Hello Again ; Sri Lanka tourism awareness session’ to announce the re-opening of Sri Lanka for international tourists from the January 21, and share details of the strategy adopted to ensures tourists enjoyed their stay, while being protected from COVID. The event was organized by the Sri Lanka embassy in Washington D.C., with assistance from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lankan Airlines GSA office in the U.S., and attracted more than 60 tour & travel partners and media personal, including Expedia and Priceline.  

Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism Kimarli Fernando said, Sri Lanka is “safe and exciting even during the pandemic”. She noted that “Sri Lanka does not require a minimum number of days to stay in Sri Lanka within the ‘Bio Bubbles’ introduced by the SLTPB. While staying in a secure level 1 hotel recognized by Sri Lanka Tourism, or multiple hotels if needed within the ‘Bio Bubble’, they could use all the facilities of the hotels including SPA, the pool and the restaurants and visit tourist sites within the bubble. These level 1 hotels which have been certified by KPMG, as well as Ernst & Young, provide accommodation exclusively for international tourists. After an initial 14 days of the stay within the ‘Bio Bubble’, travelers will be able to exit from it at any time subject to having a negative PCR test, and be able to interact with the local community. The tourists are required to undergo several PCR tests during their stay, and medical insurance with a premium of 12 dollars covered all the expenses related to transportation and ICU facility in the event of any difficulty.”

Joining the discussion, Chairman, Airport, and Aviation Major General (Rtd) G.A Chandrasiri welcomed passengers to the two Sri Lankan airports – Colombo and Mattala, and emphasized that maximum precautionary measures have been taken to ensure protection of the passengers’ safety.

CEO of the Sri Lankan Airlines Vipula Gunatileka said, although Sri Lankan does not fly to North America, through its strong partnership with ‘One World’, they have solid relationships with British Airways from Toronto, as well as with Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines, whereby Sri Lankan Airlines is able to help tourists from different gateways it has connections with.

Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority Upul Dharmadasa said, the Civil Aviation Authority is working closely with the airlines around the world to facilitate the travel of tourists to Sri Lanka, and reviewing processes constantly to stay abreast of the latest health guidelines.

Sri Lankan Airlines GSA for US, Canada and the Caribbean Dilan Ariyawansa, elaborated on the connections from the various North American cities to Sri Lanka, and the prospects seen of increasing US travelers to Sri Lanka through the pandemic period and beyond.

Director Marketing of Sri Lanka Tourism, Dushan Wickramasuriya, highlighted the potential of the U.S market to attract tourists to different sectors in Sri Lanka – soft adventure, cruise travel, wellness tourism, wildlife, and to promote luxury villas. He said travel partners can also sell tailor-made itineraries encouraging tourists to travel to Sri Lanka to spend few days, when planning to visit countries like Thailand, Maldives, India and others in East Asia and South Asia.  

The event coordinated by Second Secretary Niranga Palipana, concluded with an interactive session, where US travel partners sought clarifications and made suggestions on expanding the programme.



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HNB partners with Gammadda to develop Yaya 6 village in Anuradhapura

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HNB PLC recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Capital Maharaja Group’s initiative Gammadda Sri Lanka, the country’s largest rural development movement to develop infrastructure facilities of the Yaya 6 village Mahawilachchiya, in the Anuradhapura District.

The project is powered by HNB’s exclusive private banking proposition, The Club HNB, with the goal of engaging members and in opportunities for focused, impactful philanthropy.

A special event was hosted at The Club HNB premises on Greenpath which was attended by special guests from Yaya 6, Gammadda News 1st team and exclusive invitees of The Club HNB, during which HNB Managing Director/ CEO Jonathan Alles and Capital Maharaja Group Director Chevaan Daniel inaugurated the partnership with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

“Rural communities form the backbone of this nation, therefore, HNB is proud to partner with the Capital Maharaja Group to support their ambitious and vital work under the Gammadda initiative. We are also grateful to The Club HNB membership and our branch network for once again stepping forward and contributing generously towards the upliftment of rural communities across Sri Lanka,” Alles said.

Providing access to clean drinking water is the 1st step in the agenda and a RO plant will be installed under the first phase of the development project. This will not only save lives but also prevent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) prevalent in the region.

A new fully furnished library and computer lab will be just two other infrastructural additions to the village school Saliyamala Vidyalaya Pemaduwa, in addition to new washrooms which are to be constructed for the students and staff members. The project also entails renovation and refurbishment of the main road, the village temple, cleaning of the agrarian tank and construction of a new community hall under the initiative.

“It has been amazing working with HNB to achieve our mutual goal of providing Yaya 6 with much-needed infrastructure facilities. This project would not have been possible if not for the HNB customers, who came forward with their generous contributions to help this village in need. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you who made this possible,” Capital Maharaja Group Director Chevaan Daniel said.

Notably, acclaimed Sri Lankan pianist and music director Soundarie David’s composition of ‘Stand up and be the change’, that was created to help raise funds and create awareness about the project was performed at the event by Soul Sounds with music provided by Ranga Dasanayake at the event.

Editor-in-chief and founder of ARTRA magazine Azara Jaleel, who was also present at the event, auctioned off a painting from the ARTRA Canvas collection to The Club HNB members in aid of the project.

“I am happy to be here today, where two great institutions have come together for this great cause. We are fortunate as customers to be able to contribute in any way possible, and we hope to join you in visiting Yaya 6 soon,” a valued Club customer,Mrs Niloo Jayatilleke said.

Those who wish to make a contribution to the initiative can make a payment via HNB SOLO, through a direct payment on the payment app or deposit funds to the account titled ‘We are the change’, account number: 005010173025.

With 252 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. Over the recent past, the bank was ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd.

HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020, in addition to winning the coveted Best Retail Bank in Sri Lanka Award for the 11th time at the Asian Banker Awards 2020, in recognition of its sustainable growth and continuous improvements in processes, products and services amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment.

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The Finance Houses Association announces revision of Self-Regulation Code

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The Finance Houses Association of Sri Lanka (FHA) the apex body of all Registered Finance companies has announced the introduction of its revised Self-Regulation Code which has been voluntarily practised by member companies over a long period of time, but has to be adapted to changing times.

The timely revisions to the Code were effected with a view to maintaining the highest standards on strategic and business operations in Sri Lanka’s Non-Banking Financial and Leasing Institutions (NBFI) sector.

The FHA collective of 39 Licensed Finance Companies (LFCs) is the driver of financial inclusion of Sri Lanka’s MSME sector which has a large footprint in the Bottom of the Pyramid segment of the country. The MSME sector is no less than the backbone of Sri Lankan economy involving over 70% of businesses in Sri Lanka, providing employment for 45% of the labor force and generating 52% of GDP.

Titled “Code of Conduct of Licensed Finance Companies Sri Lanka” the updated instrument was handed over to the Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka Prof. W. D. Lakshman and Bank’s officials by FHA Council members on March 18 at the Central Bank premises.

Niroshan Udage, chairman of FHA elaborated: “FHA’s time tested gentlemen’s agreement that was codified some time ago needed revisions and updates as per the requirements of today’s changing times. The overall objectives of updating the Code were to comply to all current regulatory and legal requirements while adhering to industry best practices. We take humble pride in the fact that the Code was not imposed on our sector by any authority but was self-introduced by all FHA members on their own will, which demonstrates the members’ strong commitment to sectoral integrity and their social responsibility.”

On March 18 members of FHA also handed over their Sustainability Mandate to the Governor of Central Bank Prof. W. D. Lakshman and top officials of the Bank. “The purpose of the Sustainability Mandate is to serve as the guideline for the LFCs to integrate sustainability principles holistically into their businesses, enabling sustainable value creation through their own financing approaches, in line with defined sustainability guidelines that would ultimately contribute towards national sustainability agenda and UN Sustainable Development Goals” said chairman Niroshan Udage.

 

 

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‘CSE to bounce back, provided Corona-19 is held in check’

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

The CSE was, once again, somewhat sluggish yesterday on account of investor fears over a possible Covid-19 third wave, but the expectation in some sections that May corporate earnings will be exceptionally good had an uplifting impact on the market during the latter part of the day. The CSE could be expected to bounce back, top stock market analysts said.

” CSE will bounce back within the next few weeks if the Covid 19 new wave  does not impact  the global scenario, Head of Sales, Softlogic Stockbrokers (Pvt) Ltd. Eardley Kern  told ‘The Island Financial Review’.

He said that the upcoming quarterly corporate earnings will likely be among the best in recent times and this would enable the market to perform in a positive way.     

Windforce Ltd., the renewable energy firm, began trading above its price of Rs. 16 per share yesterday after raising Rs. 3.2 billion for wind power projects in Sri Lanka and Senegal. It contributed more than 28 percent to market turnover from its IPO, Kern said 

Windforce stocks fetched Rs. 17.90 initially  and rose to as much as Rs. 19.00 in intra-day trading, after being heavily oversubscribed, but settled at Rs. 18, which was an increase of Rs. 2.40 or 15 percent.

Amid those developments, both indices moved downwards. All Share Price Index declined by 105.53 points  and S and P SL20 went down by 47.08 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 2.61 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in Windforce, which crossed 7.2 million shares to the tune of Rs. 131.6 million; its shares traded at Rs. 18.50 and Sampath Bank 400,000 shares crossed for Rs. 20.4 million; its shares fetching Rs. 51.

In the retail market, five main contributors to the turnover were, Windforce Rs. 738 million (40.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 281.5 million (44.6 million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 195 million (3.4 million shares traded), Piramal Glass Rs. 126.4 million (11 million shares traded) and Hayleys Rs. 113 million (1.5 million shares traded). During the day 139.3 million share volumes changed hands in 19927 transactions.  

  “The indices exhibited significant volatility during the early hours of trading and witnessed a continuous downwards movement during the whole session but Windforce gave some notable impetus to the market yesterday, analysts said.

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