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SLCB wraps-up series of educational sessions on MICE Tourism for 2021



Part of the audience

The Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition & Event Organizers (SLAPCEO), recently organized the Fourth and Fifth SLCB Chairperson’s Forum on MICE at Taj Samudra Colombo. The Forums – held over two distinct sessions – comprised dialogues and discussions on “State Mechanism for MICE Development in Sri Lanka” and “MICE Economic Development through Higher Educational Institutions” respectively. The SLCB, a state institution under the Ministry of Tourism organised the Forums with the prime objective of promoting Sri Lanka as a venue for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions & Events) activities.

Previous versions of the SLCB Chairperson’s Forum on MICE comprised a series of educational seminars and workshops aimed at creating awareness among industry stakeholders, including diplomats, airlines, associations, business chambers, and academics, in promoting Sri Lanka as an ideal venue for MICE ventures. Among the Forum’s aim is the dissemination of information on MICE tourism and its many benefits for the country, and educating stakeholders on positioning Sri Lanka as an attractive venue for MICE.

The Fourth SLCB Chairperson’s Forum on MICE featured a panel of expert speakers including Ms. Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson – Sri Lanka Tourism, Ms. D. L. Sannasooriya, Acting Secretary – Ministry of Tourism, Ms. Nadeeka Leeniyagoda, Secretary – SLAPCEO, Buddhika Hewawasam, Manager – Sri Lankan Holidays and Mrs. Anusha Mohotti, Director General Sri Lanka Accounting and Auditing Standards Monitoring Board. Attendees included a gathering of key representatives from state entities in Sri Lanka.

Opening the Forum with a discussion on the topic “Rediscover Sri Lanka with MICE Events”, Ms. Kimarli Fernando commenced with an open appeal to the audience to collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism on matters of MICE, encouraging them to secure conventions to be held in Sri Lanka. Fernando also highlighted that despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has continued to make strides in tourism, having been featured by a plethora of notable institutions such as Conde Nast Traveller and Lonely Planet. She added that the successful vaccination drive in the country and the diligent health protocols in place would attract a large number of travellers. Ms. Fernando expressed optimism for tourism in the country, adding that Sri Lanka is firmly poised to deliver the needs and wants of the post covid traveller – wellness, nature, and space. A year round destination, Fernando believes the island’s strategic location, diverse experiences, melting pot of culture and rich history will draw a plethora of tourists, but opined that in order to widen appeal, necessary changes were required, including intuitive service, up-scaled offerings, disability friendly access, and upgraded facilities. “We are working on a global promotion campaign, and we’re looking to work with tourism stakeholders to improve standards so tourists could have a good experience every step of the way”. Ms. Fernando also shared that the country’s first holistic travel app was being conceptualized, and is tipped to provide information at one’s fingertips.

Speaking on the “Role of state institutions to develop MICE Tourism in Sri Lanka”, Ms. D. L. Sannasooriya shared that “the Bureau functions as a catalyst and commands the necessary government support in bidding for international and regional MICE events. It also acts as a coordinator in enlisting the cooperation and assistance of the public sector in organizing these gatherings”. Owing to the disruptions in tourism as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Sannasooriya explained that the SLCB had taken steps in planning educational seminars, workshops, forums to create awareness among diplomats, airlines to equip and educate tourism stakeholders. “We invite the audience to host forums and events in Sri Lanka itself. We have a long tradition of hosting significant MICE events and we are fast becoming one of Asia’s most sought after MICE destinations”.

“MICE is a high yielding tourism sector” she elaborated. “It brings more foreign exchange revenue, exposes the country to a new class of affluent visitors, employs a large number of support services resulting in significant indirect employment and generates knowledge sharing opportunities, scholarships, and investment opportunities which are essential for the development of the country. It also directly contributes to the efforts of the tourism industry to promote Sri Lanka as an upmarket tourism destination”. Ms. Sannasooriya also pledged support for local institutions bidding for MICE events to be held in the country.

In her segment on “Connecting Sri Lanka with the World of MICE”, Ms. Nadeeka Leeniyagoda remarked that while MICE is a niche market in Sri Lanka, it is actually a billion dollar segment globally. “As per 2018 statistics, the MICE domain was worth 800 billion USD, and by 2025, the value would reach 1.2 trillion. We have great potential in this segment”. Drawing attention to the varied scope of tourism avenues, Ms. Leeniyagoda showcased the benefits for the country including profit, awareness and the platform to build its profile. She also highlighted benefits for the country as a direct consequence of MICE events, adding “there is great potential for economic growth, it supports direct and indirect suppliers. Attendees will return with their families for vacations”. Ms. Leeniyagoda announced that Sri Lanka is hoping to establish conference centres, including one in Port City. “We are hoping to build MICE facilities and infrastructure to rival those of Dubai and Singapore”, she claimed.

Ms. Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson Sri Lanka Tourism, addressing the gathering

Buddhika Hewawasam, Manager – Sri Lankan Holidays took the podium to share that Sri Lankan Airlines is appropriately placed to support MICE initiatives. “As the national airline, we do have a responsibility towards tourism, so we invite all tourism stakeholders – especially MICE – to use our facilities and our support. Air travel is vital for MICE tourism to prosper and we can connect you with the world through the MICE tourism network”. Connecting 416 destinations and 55 countries,

Hewawasam stated that despite the pandemic, SriLankan Airlines continues to expand its network and recently recommenced flights to key cities in France and Germany. He further mentioned that SriLankan Airlines is focusing on facilitating MICE events and working with partners simultaneously; embarking on joint promotional efforts, additional assistance, discounts and accommodating a plethora of requirements. He concluded by sharing that the Forum was an eye opener for stakeholders, as it showcased the support available to them.

The final speaker at the Forum, Ms. Anusha Mohotti’s segment comprised “Experience sharing – Bidding and winning an International Conference to Sri Lanka”. Sharing her experience successfully securing the opportunity to host an event in Sri Lanka, she elaborated on the processes, the challenges as well as the support received from various institutions in hosting the event.

The last Forum of the series, which is the Fifth SLCB Chairperson’s Forum on MICE hosted in the afternoon at Taj Samudra Colombo amidst a gathering of key individuals from educational institutions, sought to educate on how to organize an international conference in Sri Lanka and encourage them to host and organize conferences. Speakers at the event were Krishantha Fernando, Ms. Kimarli Fernando, Ms. Nadeeka Leeniyagoda, Dr. Shaffaath Amidon, Buddhika Hewawasam and Pro. K. P. Hewagamage. Dr. Shaffaath Amidon spoke on the role of higher educational institutions to develop MICE tourism in Sri Lanka and urged them to make Sri Lanka a ‘knowledge hub’. Prof. K. P. Hewagamage, Director of University of Colombo School of Computing who played a leading role in organizing the International Conference on Advances in ICT for Emerging Regions (ICTer) at the University of Colombo for the first time, spoke on his experience in organizing the Conference annually. This year it was held for the 21st time. He encouraged the participants to organize international conferences in Sri Lanka which are relevant to their subject areas.

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Sri Lanka still ‘under test’ before it can receive crucial second tranche from IMF



From left: Sarwat Jahan, IMF Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, Katsiaryna Svirydzenka, Deputy Mission Chief for Sri Lanka, IMF, Peter Breuer, Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka, IMF, Huong Lan 'Pinky' Vu, Communications Officer, IMF at the press briefing held at the Central Bank head office in Colombo yesterday.

by Sanath Nanayakkare

International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff concluding their visit to Sri Lanka yesterday reaffirmed their support to Sri Lanka to move out of the ongoing economic crisis, but did not specify an exact timeline for releasing the second tranche of its Extended Fund Faculty (EFF) arrangement to Sri Lanka.

The IMF mission team led by Peter Breuer and Katsiaryna Svirydzenka that visited Colombo from September 14 to 27, is yet to be convinced that it has received a robust programme from the Sri Lankan authorities where they indicate how they would be addressing the persistent revenue shortfall besides outlining progress in foreign debt restructuring which would give Sri Lanka a breather to balance its financing requirements as it starts to repay its foreign debt.

“We had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic performance and policies underpinning the first review under the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The people of Sri Lanka have shown remarkable resilience and the authorities have made significant progress on important reforms. The discussions will continue towards reaching a staff-level agreement in the near term that will maintain the reform momentum needed to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from its deep economic crisis, Peter Breuer said.

“The objectives of the IMF-supported program will continue to focus on restoring macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, while protecting the poor and vulnerable, safeguarding financial stability and stepping up structural reforms to address corruption vulnerabilities and unlock Sri Lanka’s growth potential, he said.

However, the press briefing given by the IMF team yesterday signaled that they needed to see more economic and financial policies to support the approval of the First Review of the program under the EFF arrangement.

“Sri Lanka has made commendable progress in implementing difficult but much-needed reforms. These efforts are bearing fruit as the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization. Inflation is down from a peak of 70 percent in September 2022 to below 2 percent in September 2023, gross international reserves increased by $1.5 billion during March-June this year, and shortages of essentials have eased. Despite early signs of stabilization, full economic recovery is not yet assured. Growth momentum remains subdued, with real GDP contracting by 3.1 percent in the second quarter on a year-on-year basis and high-frequency economic indicators continuing to provide mixed signals. Reserve accumulation has slowed in recent months, he said.

Speaking further Peter Breuer said: “Sustaining the reform momentum is critical to put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and stable and inclusive economic growth. The authorities have met the program’s primary balance targets and remain committed to this important pillar of the program so as to support their efforts to restore debt sustainability. However, revenue mobilization gains – while improved relative to last year – are expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by year end, in part due to economic factors.

“The onus of fiscal adjustment would fall on public expenditure if there were no efforts to recoup this shortfall. This could weaken the government’s ability to provide essential public services and undermine the path to debt sustainability. To increase revenues and signal better governance, it is important to strengthen tax administration, remove tax exemptions, and actively eliminate tax evasion.

“Against continued uncertainty, it also remains important to rebuild external buffers through strong reserves accumulation. Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in controlling inflation, refraining from monetary financing will help keep inflation in check. Other challenges include maintaining cost recovery in electricity pricing.

“The government has made steady progress on structural reforms. Key legislations passed in Parliament, including the new Central Bank Act and the Anti-Corruption Act, could improve governance if implemented effectively. The IMF Governance Diagnostic report would inform future reform measures to strengthen governance when published.

“A new welfare benefit payment scheme was enacted with new eligibility criteria that aims to improve targeting, adequacy, and coverage of social safety nets. To ensure financial stability, steps were taken on conducting bank diagnostics, developing a roadmap for addressing banking system capital and liquidity shortfalls and improving the bank resolution framework.

“The authorities have also made headway on regaining debt sustainability through the execution of the domestic debt restructuring and advancing discussions with external creditors. As Sri Lanka is restructuring its public debt which is in arrears.

“Executive Board approval of the first program review requires the completion of financing assurances reviews. These financing assurances reviews will focus on whether adequate progress has been made with debt restructuring to give confidence that it will be concluded in a timely manner and in line with the program’s debt targets.

“Discussions are on-going, and the authorities are continuing to make progress on their plans for revenue mobilization targets, anti-corruption efforts, and other important structural reforms.”

The IMF team held meetings with President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials, during the visit. The IMF team also met with parliamentarians, representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.

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‘Imposing minimum room rates on five star hotels could ruin tourism sector’



Tourists in Sri Lanka

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The imposing of a minimum room rate on five star hotels on the basis of a recent gazette notification is actually killing the industry. Room rates, accordingly, could henceforth rise to between 80 percent and 100 percent, top travel and tourism industry expert Chandana Amaradasa said.

“The minimum room rate of a five star hotel currently comes to about US $ 65 but with the new gazette notification it would go up to US $ 170 per day. But our competitors, such as, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are maintaining a minimum room rate of US$ 80 to US$ 85, Amaradasa told The Island Financial Review.

Amaradasa said that the tourism industry is just picking- up and ‘this type of move is detrimental to the entire sector because these room rates are normally determined by demand and supply and not by gazette notifications.

Amaradasa added: ‘At present, Colombo five star hotels are mainly patronized by Indian tourists, corporate clients and MICE tourists. This will not only impact hotel revenue but the outside supply chain as well. Nowhere in the world is the tourism industry regulated in this manner and this would enable our competitors, such as, Vietnam and Thailand to attract tourists.

“As a long term consequence, some of the airlines could also pull out of Sri Lanka and hotels will halt recruiting new staff and training them with the limiting of their revenue sources.’

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ADL’s journey continues: Unveiling new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia for tech excellence



Axiata Digital Labs (ADL), the renowned technology hub of Axiata Group Berhad, is proud to announce the grand opening of two new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia. These strategic expansions, respectively, mark significant milestones in the company’s journey since it’s inception in 2019. This signifies ADL’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing the telecommunications industry and propelling the global rate of digital transformation.

The inauguration of these state-of-the-art offices exemplifies the dedication ADL has towards expanding its footprint and harnessing the power of innovation across Southeast Asia. As the first CMMI 2.0 Level 3 IT organization in Sri Lanka and an ISO-certified company, ADL is well-positioned to lead the charge in transforming traditional telcos into techcos through its groundbreaking Axonect Product Suite.

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