A group of over 60 Australian travel agents arrived in Sri Lanka recently on a week-long tour, from 4 to 13 of October to explore the uniqueness of Sri Lanka and the large number of holiday opportunities to choose from. The group was under the guidance of Mr. Dennis Bunnik, Chairman of the Council of Australian Tour Operators, (CATO) who previously visited Sri Lanka and also met Hon. Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife & Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga.
Australia has become an important and fast-growing markets for tourists to Sri Lanka. In 2018, Australia was the fourth largest source market with 111,000, up 36% on 2017. This trend continued into 2019, in Q1 Australian arrivals were up 27% on the same period last year, reaching almost 31,000.
The travel agents represented all parts of Australia including Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. They were much impressed with the cultural diversity of Sri Lanka and during their stay they visited locations such as the Dambulla Cave temple, Sigiriya, Temple of the Sacred tooth relic, Galle City tour, Turtle Hatchery Visit, and a Colombo City tour. During their final day in Colombo they were given an exclusive farewell dinner to celebrate their successful tour in Sri Lanka, amongst the distinguished guests was a large number of Australian travel agents.
Mr. Kishu Gomes, Chairman SLTPB mentioned during his welcome address that the highest population of Sri Lankan citizens who live overseas live in Australia. On Sri Lanka’s recovery efforts he said:
“Just over 5 months, we have been able to recover about 80%. In a few months from now we will fully recover. In our case, so I’m confident that we’ll be able to that within the next two or three months’ time. Australia is a very crucial market for us.” He added, “So Sri Lankans’ and I would like to thank all Australians who made this happen.”
During the event, both local and Australian travel agents were able to share their thoughts on how to take develop business partnerships between the two countries.
Dennis Bunnik, Chairman of CATO said, “Keep being Sri Lanka. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Stay true the Sri Lanka spirit and stay true to this country. We need to keep a unique Sri Lankan flavor, because that’s what people come to see. Not manufactured experiences, but genuine experiences, interact with the local people etc. Tourism can be really beneficial for a country because tourism helps every level of society. So it’s really important that you keep doing that, because it’s such an economic driver, provides a lot of opportunities for people, because important that everybody benefits.”
The event was organized by Bunnik Tours in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.
Visitors enjoy a sunset on the chequerboard at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.