Tourism Minister expects a significant number of Russian travellers this winter
The destination promotion initiative in Moscow led by Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, has successfully drawn the attention of all stakeholders to woo more Russians to travel to Sri Lanka for an enthralling, yet safe holiday this winter season.
“Sri Lanka could be considered as a suitable tourist destination for the Russians travellers, as the Government is taking necessary steps to revive and promote the tourism industry post-pandemic following strict health protocols,” the Tourism Minister said during a press conference held in Moscow on Monday.
The Minister is on a five-day official visit to Russia to participate in a tourism promotion program implemented by Sri Lanka Tourism.
He said the Government had administered the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 to 90% of Sri Lankans above 30 years and the second jab to 60%.
Responding to questions raised by Russian journalists, the Minister said that he believed the vaccination program for Sri Lankans over the age of 20 would achieve 100% of the target within the next few weeks.
This media briefing was the beginning of the Russian tourism promotion initiative.
“Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa strongly believes that it is critical to ensure safety of the lives of the people to move the country forward amidst the pandemic. Once the vaccination targets are achieved, it will be possible to remove the existing travel restrictions in the country,” Ranatunga explained.
A two-day travel exhibition featuring photographs of Sri Lanka’s top tourist destinations, promotion of Ceylon Tea, gems and jewellery followed by several other engagements with Russian tour operators was concluded in Russia yesterday.
In responding to the journalists, the Minister also recalled the success of the pilot tourists project, which was introduced by Sri Lanka to the world.
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando made a comprehensive and enthralling presentation about the country and initiatives launched to attract international travellers.
It was noted that steps have been taken to identify 6,000 new tourist destinations of historic, cultural, wildlife, nature and entertainment value, whilst furthering the facilities required to cater to tourists coming to Sri Lanka.
Followed by the engagement with the 13 Sri Lankan tour operators, the travel agencies in Russia have favourably responded to the national carrier SriLankan Airlines’ recent ‘Buy-one-get-one-free’ air ticket promotion.
Ranatunga’s initial visit to Russia in July coincided with the resumption of SriLankan Airlines’ direct weekly flights to Moscow, following an absence of six years.
SriLankan Airlines last month launched an innovative ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ air ticket offer to attract more tourists post-pandemic. The promotion is jointly coordinated by Sri Lanka Tourism and SriLankan Airlines in partnership with the travel and hotel industries.
Tourism Ministry officials participating in the official visit told the Daily FT that Russian tour operators had already got several inquiries for the upcoming winter season via the air ticket promotion, mostly from families that were planning to visit Sri Lanka.
SriLankan Airlines also hopes to increase its frequency during the forthcoming winter season. In the meantime, Russia’s Aeroflot Airlines is planning to restart flights to Colombo from 4 November.
Ranatunga has also extended an invitation to the Russian journalists and travel bloggers to visit Sri Lanka in a sponsored media familiarisation tour.
The Tourism Minister believes Sri Lanka could expect a significant number of Russian tourists for the coming winter season.
In the first seven months of 2021, there had been 702 Russian tourists as the country ranked as the ninth largest source market. Last year there were 49,400 Russian tourists before Sri Lanka closed its borders in view of the COVID pandemic. Russia was the third biggest source market in 2010.
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