The PATA Southern California Chapter (SoCal PATA) hosted a presentation on tourism in Sri Lanka on March 1.
Executive Director and PR/Publicity for PATA, Klaus Billep, who is also President of Universal Travel System, introduced the presenter for the night, Lakshman Ratnapala, former Director of Tourism for Sri Lanka. Ratnapala is also the CEO of PATA, as well as Chairman and CEO of Enelar International, a San Francisco based global tourism management and marketing consultancy.
The event took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at LAX, and the new Consul General of Sri Lanka, Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, and his wife were in attendance for the dinner presentation. The guest list included Varina De Silva, President of Ceylon Express International; Ronald S. Miracky, the Marketing Director for Production Travel Tours and M. Puni, the President of Adore Travel.
Ratnapala disclosed that the total arrivals in Sri Lanka in 2011 were 855,957 -which is an increase of 30.8% from 2010.
The outlook for 2012 is that Sri Lanka will receive 1 million tourists. Why are there so many people flocking to this tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean? There are five main reasons:
1) The cost of food, hotel expenses, and travel within the country is incredibly inexpensive. Whether you are an experienced veteran or a novice to outdoor recreational activities, and you need a break from the hum-drum life of the office, Sri Lanka offers world renowned white water rafting and surfing, exciting canoeing and kayaking, spectacular hiking and trekking, mountain biking, camping, as well as diving and snorkeling the waters of the Indian Ocean.
Less strenuous but just as equally exhilarating activities include: hot air ballooning, jeep safaris, and whale watching.
2) As Sri Lanka is an island; it is a compact biodiversity hotspot for flora and fauna and a treasure trove for bird watchers, whale watchers, and enthusiasts of exotic wildlife. Throughout your trip, be it on the busy roads, lounging by the seaside, or on your way to the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala, you will see endemic species that are only found in Sri Lanka.
It is a biologist’s, botanists, and zoologist’s dream, but you don’t have to be a specialist to appreciate the true beauty of nature.
3) The local cuisine is full of flavor and while you’re there you can stock up on fresh spices. Sri Lankan cuisine is palatable for a variety of diets and ways of life; meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike can savor the scrumptious bursts of flavor that is Sri Lankan food. If you are a fan of salty, spicy, sweet, or sour, your taste buds will thank you after your first bite.
While Sri Lankan is closest to the Maldives and India, the cuisine is closer to that of Indonesian food due to the creative use of coconut.
4) The opportunity to experience Ayurveda, a holistic approach to healing. Western medicine is widely practiced in Sri Lanka; however Ayurveda is also practiced for since ancient times. It is said that by 2025, a little more than a decade, Sri Lanka is estimated to have the third oldest population in Asia, which leads one to conclude that the Ayurvedic method of healing does indeed work.
5) Finally, you will get to see six man made and two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites just by visiting one country. The island is roughly 25,332 square miles which is slightly larger than West Virginia or one-sixth of California, and is packed with places that you must see during your stay. Due to its compact size, you will be able to visit all the historic sites on your list.
By now you are probably booking your ticket to Asia. The best season to visit is during the winter months as the weather is at its best in Sri Lanka. If you have enough time, consider making a short 45 minute plane ride to Kerala, South India so you can hit two countries in one trip.
Novices and experienced travelers alike looking to save money on airfare and visit during the summer months are highly encouraged to make it to the Kandy ‘Esala’ Perahera Festival.
Kandy is a province in the middle of the island, and this year the Festival takes place July 27th. You will experience a spectacular parade of beautifully adorned elephants, talented dancers and drummers, and torch bearers who light up the night until the hilly land of Kandy is alight with performers and throngs of spectators.
Once you’ve been to Sri Lanka, you can call yourself a seasoned globe trekker.