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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Sri Lanka hosts the Indian Travel Agents Association convention to boost tourism

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka in hopes of promoting tourism has decided to host the Indian Travel Agents Association’s annual convention, an official said.

The 68th annual convention of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) is set to be held from July 6 to 9, 2023, occupying around 400 agents in the travel industry.

“The event will mainly be about their working sessions, various different angles of the tourism industry etc,”Nishan Wijetunga, the President of Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) , told Economy Next. 

 “But the fact that we can get 450 agents to come into Sri Lanka and experience it as it will be a positive outcome for the tourism board.”

 Sri Lanka expected a boom in MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourist arrivals this year mainly led by India as the country gradually recovers from the economic crisis from last year.

MICE tourism, which showed a gradual increase in 2018, declined drastically following a series of crises started with the easter sunday attack in 2019.

“This event will increase the numbers and the exposure for Sri Lanka as it will take away the negative news about the country”, Wijetunge said. 

The conference is expecting around 450 travel agents from India joined by 50 media personalities.

“TAAI is the oldest and the largest association of India as we are mostly into outbound tourism and we will be coming with nearly 450 agents,” Jyoti Mayal the President of the Travel Agents Association of India told Economy Next. 

“Even if 10 percent of them start doing business, India will continue to be the number one source market for Sri Lanka”, 

Sri Lanka is expecting 1.55 million tourists in 2023 led by visitors from India as the island nation saw 9,323 arrivals from May in this month. 

In 2019, before the Coronavirus crisis hit, Sri Lanka welcomed 1.9 million tourists, out of which 355,002 tourists were from India. 

 Sri Lanka witnessed a total of 123,004 tourist arrivals from India for the whole year, in 2022. 

The country saw 36,100 tourist arrivals from May 1 -14 and the total number of tourist arrivals for the year so far is 477,277. (Colombo/ May 20/2023)

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Sri Lanka halts auction of bank loan collateral till Dec 15

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers had approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to amend the country’s loan recovery law and halt auctioning of defaulted loans till December 15, Minister Bandula Gunawardena said.

“Various parties have pointed out issues existing in paying off the loans obtained by small and medium scale businessmen from banks,” Gunawardena said Tuesday.

“Therefore, it is apparent that a sufficient grace period to pay off relevant debts without being a burden to the banking system should be allowed.”

“Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval … to suspend the procedure by the banks to acquire properties of loans not paid off, until 15 December 2024, and to amend Section 4 of the Recovery of Loans by Banks (Special Provisions) Act No, 4 of 1990 to impose legal provisions required for the above.” (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka parliamentary committee says electricity tariffs should be reduced by 20 pct

ECONOMYNEXT — A parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis has recommended to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) that electricity tariffs be reduced by at least 20 percent.

A statement from parliament said on Monday February 26 that, following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will not suffer any loss.

PUCSL officials have informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill, according to the statement.

The matter was taken up for discussion when the committee, chaired by MP Gamini Waleboda, met in the Parliament on February 22.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and from government institutions including the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called for the meeting.

“The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

“The Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasised that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50 percent of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis,” the statement said.

The committee was also of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

The committee chair has instructed the PUCSL to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

“The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidised interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. The Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

The committee has also recommended that raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials be identified to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries. Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the CEB to external buyers and other entities should also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board, the committee has recommended.

The definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions, the committee had noted, directing the Department of Population and Statistics to support to the policymakers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

“The committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

“The committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week,” the statement said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka sets up fund to help children of Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is mandated to provide education, health, relief and social services, and emergency assistance to refugees. (Pic courtesy UNWRA)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers have approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to set up a fund to help children caught in the war in Gaza, a statement said.

The government will contribute a million US dollars and use funds allocated by state agencies for Ifthar celebrations.

Public contributions are also called.

The Presidential Secretariat is requesting public donations citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” to be contributed to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April.

Deposit receipts should to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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