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Monday February 6th, 2023

Hollywood celebs wax lyrical on Sri Lanka in big boost to tourism

ECONOMYNEXT- A host of Hollywood celebrities visited Sri Lanka over the past week, poised to give the island’s tourism industry, currently recovering from the Easter Sunday terror attack, a major boost.

Social media networks Twitter and Instagram were abuzz with photos being shared of Hollywood stars Margot Robbie, Melissa Benoist and Bill Skarsgard visiting Sri Lanka over the past week.

You are beautiful

Melissa Benoist, who currently plays the eponymous Supergirl in the fifth season of the show and also had a starring role in the hit musical-comedy serial Glee, on Monday evening posted her adventures in Sri Lanka to her 3.9 million Instagram followers, sparking enthusiasm for the country.

“Ayubowan, Sri Lanka, you are beautiful and we loved you,” Benoist said, in a post which included a picture of her travelling on a train with her husband Christopher Wood, who co-starred with her in the early seasons of Supergirl.

Benoist also shared snaps of heritage sights in Polonnaruwa and Dambulla, and a wild elephant by the roadside.

Krishan Balendra, Chairman of John Keells Holdings, which owns Sri Lanka’s largest hotel chain Cinnamon, told Economynext that the growing attention for the country among celebrities at this juncture was good news, and the word of mouth among their social circles would boost the country.

“High profile celebrities visiting Sri Lanka and sharing their experiences on social media will help to boost tourism to the country, particularly the higher-end segment,” he said.

Cinnamon has its fair share of hosting celebrities in Sri Lanka such as British cooking show host Nigella Lawson and CNN’s Richard Quest, in its initiatives to boost the country’s tourism industry.

Harith Perera, Immediate Past President of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, told EconomyNext that famous celebrities visiting the island following the downturn was ‘fantastic news’.

Dying to Visit

Meanwhile, Margot Robbie, one of the world’s biggest stars, was also visiting the island, and stayed at Aathma House Colombo, a luxury boutique hotel, which shared the news on Instagram.

“Absolute pleasure hosting the lovely, super talented Margot Robbie,” the hotel said.

Robbie, who rose to international fame on her performances on the television series Pan-Am and the blockbusters Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad, Mary Queen of Scots and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, told the fashion magazine Vogue in June 2019, that Sri Lanka was the top country she was ‘dying to visit’.

Robbie is yet to share snaps of her trip with her 17.9 million Instagram followers, but on her trip out of Sri Lanka was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for portraying Fox News employee Kayla Pospisil on the motion picture Bombshell, a true story which tackles sexual harassment at the television network.

Bill Skarsgard, star of the billion-dollar grossing IT franchise was snapped by his wife Alida Morberg during a trip to the island over the past week as well.

Skarsgård, a part of a Swedish acting dynasty, plays IT/Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the series, which is an adaptation of a Stephen King book.

The A-list of Destinations

Sri Lanka has hosted celebrities such as Game of Thrones stars Kit Harington and Rose Leslie in 2017 and musician Macklemore in 2014. X-Files and Sex Education’s Gillian Anderson even owns a home in the island.

The go-to destination for A-list celebrities in South Asia has typically been the neighbouring Maldives, with the archipelago’s white sand beaches, turquoise waters and exclusive resorts providing privacy.

Ten years after the end of a civil war, Sri Lanka has yet to transform into a mass-market tourism destination, but is now counted among the A-list of countries to visit, being featured high up in top places by almost all major global travel and lifestyle publications over the past two years.

Many urge their readers to visit the island before it loses its charm.

Readers of the upscale travel magazine Conde Nast in November voted Sri Lanka the fourth best country to visit in 2019.

Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the best destination to visit in 2019 shortly before Islamist suicide bombers targeted three hotels and churches, but later re-affirmed its stance, saying the country was safe to travel to once more.

As the island quickly shut down the terror network, travel advisories were lifted.

Arrivals to Sri Lanka fell 18 percent to 1.9 million tourists in 2019, but had recovered to a 4.5 percent fall by December, from a 70.8 percent fall in May, due to the quick lifting of travel bans and support from travel publications.

The country has been striving to attract high-end tourists, as it is still seen as a frontier destination which is backpack and budget friendly.

Mid to high end group tourists, especially older Europeans couples and families, have been resistant on booking holidays to the island following the terror strikes, and hotels were offering rooms at half-price, placing even luxury resorts within the grasp of budget tourists, who made up most of the arrival numbers in the latter part of 2019.

Security concerns have been further alleviated with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an ex-Defence Secretary, being elected President in November.

The President on January 13 set an ambitious target of reaching 10 billion US dollars in tourist earnings, from 4.5 billion US dollars in 2018.

However, tourism market efforts have languished in bureaucratic delays over the past decade, and word of mouth has been Sri Lanka tourism’s greatest friend. (Colombo/Jan15/2020)

Comments (2)

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    Wherever they come from, is ok so long as this country does not become a cesspit of putrefying morals, like in certain other destinations that now been avoided by serious holiday travelers. We should be unique and have controls in place to keep a cleans atmosphere and with no interference from any one, and the tourist police be specialized to handle the visitors with care and guidance, with very carefully selected personnel. Some so called tourist complexes have been allowed to be built and is looking like shanties complexes, and likely cesspits for many questionable social activities.

  2. Dutugemunu says:

    Justin Bieber had “Puerto Rico” in one of his very popular songs but Puerto Rico’s corrupt politicians did not stop their corruption. Tourists did not care visiting for Justin’s song. Wait until the general election in Sri Lanka to see the true colors of the family in power. Already opposition politicians have been harassed in many ways. Non Buddhist people are harassed by religious fanatics after the election of SL president. A Buddhist monk even physically attacked a Christian missionary a month ago in SL. No Buddhist missionary was ever attacked in a Christian country. I am sure if a tourist is wearing a cross as a piece of jewellery, he/she will be attacked in SL Some tourists have tattoos of Christian figures on them. I hope Buddhists will not take offense.

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Comments (2)

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. sacre blieu says:

    Wherever they come from, is ok so long as this country does not become a cesspit of putrefying morals, like in certain other destinations that now been avoided by serious holiday travelers. We should be unique and have controls in place to keep a cleans atmosphere and with no interference from any one, and the tourist police be specialized to handle the visitors with care and guidance, with very carefully selected personnel. Some so called tourist complexes have been allowed to be built and is looking like shanties complexes, and likely cesspits for many questionable social activities.

  2. Dutugemunu says:

    Justin Bieber had “Puerto Rico” in one of his very popular songs but Puerto Rico’s corrupt politicians did not stop their corruption. Tourists did not care visiting for Justin’s song. Wait until the general election in Sri Lanka to see the true colors of the family in power. Already opposition politicians have been harassed in many ways. Non Buddhist people are harassed by religious fanatics after the election of SL president. A Buddhist monk even physically attacked a Christian missionary a month ago in SL. No Buddhist missionary was ever attacked in a Christian country. I am sure if a tourist is wearing a cross as a piece of jewellery, he/she will be attacked in SL Some tourists have tattoos of Christian figures on them. I hope Buddhists will not take offense.

Sri Lanka to address SME tax problems at first opportunity: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Problems faced by Sri Lanka’s small and medium enterprises from recent tax changes will be addressed at the first opportunity, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Business chambers had raised questions about hikes in Value Added Tax, Corporate Income Tax and the Social Security Contribution Levy (SSCL) that’s been imposed.

It should be explored on how to amend the Inland Revenue Act, Siyamabalapitiya said, adding that the future months should be considered as a period where the country is being stabilized.

Both the VAT and SSCL are effectively paid by customers, but the SSCL is a cascading tax that makes running businesses difficult.

In Sri Lanka SMEs make up a large part of the economy, accounting for 80 per cent of all businesses according to according to the island’s National Human Resources and Employment Policy.

(Colombo/ Feb 05/2023)

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Sri Lanka revenues Rs158.7bn in Jan 2023 up 51-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government revenues were 158.7 billion rupees in January 2023 but expenditure and debt service remained high, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

In January 2022 total revenues were Rs104.5 billion according to central bank data.

Sri Lanka’s tax revenues have risen sharply amid an inflationary blow off which had boosted nominal GDP while President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also raised taxes.

Departing from a previous strategy advocated by the IMF expanding the state and not cutting expenses, called revenue based fiscal consolidation, he is attempting to do classical fiscal consolidation with spending restraint.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has presented a note to cabinet requesting state expenditure to be controlled, Gunawardana told reporters.

State Salaries cost 87.4 billion rupees.

Pensions and income supplements (Samurdhi program) were29.5 billion rupees.

Other expenses were 10.8 billion rupees.

Capital spending was   21 billion rupees.

Debt service was 377.6 billion rupees for January which has to be done with borrowings from Treasury bills, bonds and a central bank provisional advance of 100 billion rupees, Gunawardana said.

Interest costs were not separately given. (Colombo/Feb05/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices down for second week

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea prices fell for the second week at an auction on January 31, with teas from all elevations seeing a decline, data showed.

“In retrospect, the decline in prices would be a price correction owing to the overall product quality and less interest from some key importers due to the arrival of cargo at destinations ahead of schedule,” Forbes and Walker tea brokers said.

The weekly sale average fell from 1475.79 rupees to 1465.40 rupees from a week ago, according to data from Ceylon Tea Brokers.

The tea prices are down for two weeks in a row.

High Growns

The High Grown sale average was down by 20.90 rupees to 1380.23 rupees, Ceylon Tea Brokers said.

High grown BOP and BOPF was down about 100 rupees.

“Ex-Estate offerings which totalled 0.75 M/Kg saw a slight decline in quality over the previous week” Forbes and Walker said.

OP/OPA’s in general were steady to marginally down.

Low Growns

In Low Grown Teas, FBOP 1 was down by 100 rupees and FBOP was down by 50 rupees while PEK was up by 150 rupees.

The Low Growns sale average was down by 8.55 rupees to 1547.93 rupees.

A few select Best BOP1s along with Below Best varieties maintained.

OP1                     Select Best OP1’s were steady, whilst improved/clean Below Best varieties maintained.   Others and poorer sorts were easier.

PEKOE                 Well- made PEK/PEK1s in general were steady, whilst others and poorer sorts were down.

Leafy and Semi Leafy catalogues met with fair demand,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“However, the Small Leaf and Premium catalogues continued to decline.

“Shippers to Iran were very selective, whilst shippers to Türkiye and Russia were fairly active.”

This week  2.2 million Kilograms of Low Growns were sold.

Medium Growns

Medium Grown BOP and BOPF fell by around 100 rupees

The Medium Growns sale average was down by 33.40 rupees to 1199.4 rupees.

“Medium CTC teas in the higher price bracket witnessed a similar trend, whilst teas at the lower end were somewhat maintained subject to quality,” Forbes and Walker brokers said.

“Improved activity from the local trade and perhaps South Africa helped to stabilize prices to some extent.”

OP/OPA grades were steady while PEKOE/PEKOE1 were firm, while some gained 50-100 rupees at times.

Well-made FBOP/FBOPF1’s were down by 50-100 rupees per kg and more at times.

(Colombo/Feb 5/2023)

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