SOMETIMES CALLED THE PEARL OF THE INDIAN OCEAN, lovely Sri Lanka has much to recommend it.
Surrounded by water, this island nation lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea. Geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, it boasts a 92 percent literacy rate and a life expectancy 10 percent above the world’s average.
Not surprisingly considering its geography, Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo boasts a busy port. Though a small percentage of the Port of Colombo’s business comes from pleasure craft and cruise ships, it is essentially a container port. On May 25 Sri Lanka, India and Japan signed a deal to jointly build a deepwater container terminal in Colombo.
Though closely allied with India, Sri Lanka features a character all its own. While the country occupies a much more compressed geographic area than its vast neighbor, it offers a range of diverse attractions, including eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and 14 national parks. Besides the country’s cultural and natural charms, plenty of prestigious global hotel chains provide the MICE industry with attractive and up-to-date venues for meetings, incentives, conventions and events. When you add easy access via many international airlines and green-certified hotels, it’s no wonder Sri Lanka gained a reputation as an attractive MICE destination.
Colombo, the country’s commercial capital and its largest city, serves as the hub for MICE events of all sizes and kinds. Numerous venues can accommodate conferences for up to 150 individuals. As for incentives, smaller groups can enjoy a schedule that incorporates several destinations and experiences within the island.
Some popular Colombo venues for smaller meetings include Galadari Hotel, well-equipped to handle MICE events with more than 24,000 square feet of flexible meeting space including individual rooms for smaller groups. The Cinnamon Grand accommodates trade shows as well as more intimate gatherings thanks to flexible room layouts. And the historic and elegant Galle Face Hotel has hosted events covering a broad range of topics from security and defense to travel and tourism.
Besides the facilities for smaller meetings and incentives, Colombo boasts two modern conference and exhibition centers which cater to large events of up to 2,000 people and exhibitions of any scale. The Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall offers high-quality specialized conference facilities and personalized customer service. A multifunction- al complex, it comprises four buildings set on 37 acres and has been called South Asia’s top exhibition complex.
Sri Lanka Exhibition & Convention Centre, a purpose-built, fully multifunctional exhibition venue, provides 40,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space for a multitude of events such as exhibitions, conferences, seminars, meetings and concerts. Its strategic location in the heart of the city center places it within walking distance of major hotels, the Port of Colombo and financial and business institutions.
Sadly, the last few months have not been easy for Sri Lanka. Just as the country began to finally outlive its violent reputation due to a lengthy civil war, Easter Sunday brought a series of terrorist bombings that killed hundreds of people. But Sri Lankans, used to dealing with adversity, quickly made efforts to cushion the impact of the attacks, specifically where it affected tourism. To that end, the government drastically reduced airline ground charges, aviation fuel prices and departure fees. A one-year moratorium is in place for repayment of loans for tourism-related businesses, while interest rates on new loans have been substantially reduced. All of these efforts show Sri Lanka’s willingness to make the country attractive to visitors, 11 percent of whom represent the MICE segment.
Further evidence of Sri Lanka’s commitment to promoting the MICE community comes in the form of MICE CONNECT 2019 Sri Lanka edition. The meeting, set up to build and strengthen the relations between Indian buyers and the hospitality brands from Sri Lanka, was originally scheduled for May 9 and 10. Though it was postponed due to the attacks, the meeting took place July 2 and 3, free from any incidents due to the quick action of local authorities to strengthen security in Colombo. This sends a positive message to other MICE planners about Sri Lanka’s resilience and willingness to make the country safe for future events.
Centrally located in Mount Lavinia, the Siddhalepa ANARVA Mount Lavinia offers much to entice MICE organizers. The hotel features a state-of-the-art conference and meeting area, outfitted with the latest in modern equipment. The rooftop bar boasts spectacular panoramas of the city and the Indian Ocean and makes a lovely venue for cocktail functions. siddhaleparesort.com/anarvamountlavinia
Just opened in the summer of this year, the Elyon Colombo Hotel is purpose-built to host MICE activities. Hotel executives say the property attempts to reflect a new age in hospitality in which business travel is in- separable from lifestyle. Facilities include three state-of-the-art meeting and event spaces, including the Sky Function Hall accommodating up to 120 people and ideal for corporate functions. elyoncolombohotel.com
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