Speech delivered by the Minister of Tourism Development, Christian Religious Affairs and Lands, Hon. John Amaratunga at the JEV Congress 2016 in Colombo on October 31st, 2016.
As the Minister of Tourism Development, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all delegates especially those of you visiting Sri Lanka for the first time. Ayubowan! Bienvenue au Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka considers it a great honour to welcome all of you representing the French travel trade attending the JEV Congress that is being inaugurated here in Colombo this afternoon.
The Government of Sri Lanka has given top priority to this Congress as it is the first time we have been given the honour of hosting this annual event. We consider this as a golden opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase its attractions to the French travel trade. I hope your deliberations over the next few days will be very fruitful and that your stay in Sri Lanka, the most beautiful country in this part of the world, will be a very happy and memorable experience. I’m very confident that this congress will help boost tourism to Sri Lanka from France and the European Union.
The fact that Sri Lanka was chosen to host this year’s JEV Congress is in itself a massive boost for Sri Lanka Tourism. France which for long years has been a traditional primary market for Sri Lanka Tourism also produces the highest number of incentive travelers from Europe. I would like to recall with gratitude that during the dark days when tourism was struggling for survival during the three decade long war, French tourists never stopped coming to Sri Lanka and kept the industry afloat. We are very thankful for this. With the end of the war, arrivals from France have picked up rapidly and the momentum continues to this day.
The JEV Congress in Colombo would not have been possible if not for the untiring efforts of our Ambassador in France, Tilak Ranaviraja, my Deputy Minister, Arundika Fernando, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, Janaka Sugathadasa, and Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism, Paddy Withana who attended the last SNAV Conference and convinced the executive council to host this year’s congress in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Tourism is very eager to strengthen its bonds with the French travel trade. We in Sri Lanka have always welcomed French tourists with open arms and will continue to do so. We are very interested in growing the number of arrivals from France in the days ahead and I’m sure this Congress will be the required impetus in achieving this goal. It is noteworthy that French tourists have traditionally been associated with the high end market and the new luxury properties that our opening up in various locations in the country will be a very attractive proposition for this segment.
I’m extremely confident that the deliberations that will take place during this congress will help strengthen the traditional ties between the two countries and result in a very productive and mutually beneficial outcome. This Congress will no doubt help promote Sri Lanka in France and most importantly establish the fact that this country is one of the safest places on Earth for French tourists to enjoy a holiday.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s rapidly changing political landscape based on good governance, respect for human rights, upholding of democratic values and inclusive development, offers unrivalled opportunities for investment in tourism and leisure sectors including agricultural tourism, medical tourism, wildlife and adventure based tourism and is also an attractive proposition for MICE tourism. I earnestly request you to consider these aspects in your deliberations at the congress.
Our Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe delivering his economic policy statement in parliament last week emphasized the importance of tourism to the national economy. He said that the government will be looking to transform Sri Lanka in to a high value destination by showcasing our cultural pursuits, wildlife and the environment. Provinces that offer these attractions are to be developed as tourism hot spots.
I also want to emphasize that Sri Lanka is very conscious of the environmental footprint of its tourism industry and we give every possible encouragement for eco-tourism that is in harmony with nature. Before I conclude I wish to recall the famous words of that legendary 13th century explorer, Marco Polo, who described Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then, as “the finest island of its size in all the world.”
It is my wish that all of you will have a comfortable and pleasant stay in Sri Lanka and take with you pleasant memories of this beautiful land and the opportunities and attractions it has to offer French tourists.
Finally let me thank Le Journées de Entrepreneurs du Voyages or JEV which represents almost all tourism enterprises in France for having consented to hold this year’s congress in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau for organizing this historic event.