New hotel and resort developments, the latest domestic and international air routes, improved roads and new trains as well as wildlife and surfing tours.
Ampersand Travel, the expert Sri Lanka tour operator, validates why there is so much hype about the country being THE place to visit in 2012.
Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in 2010 numbered 654,477 people, compared with 447,890 in 2009. In the first ten months of 2011, tourist arrivals jumped 34.2% to 667,569 and that figure is expected to rise to 780,000 by the end of the year. The government’s target is to welcome 2.5 million visitors by 2016 generating an annual revenue of $2.75 billion. The government aims to achieve this by doubling the number of hotel rooms to 45,000 by 2016 as well as by developing new areas of the island.
This will virtually revolutionise internal travel in Sri Lanka from the capital to the popular tourist area around Galle.
- Colombo airport to Galle was a 4.5 hour drive and will now be 2 hours.
- Colombo airport to Tangalle was a 6.5 hour drive and will now be 4.5 hours.
The motorway will be extended to Matara though dates for completion of this stretch of road have not yet been released.
A new deluxe compartment has been launched on the intercity service between Colombo and Kandy. There are plans to extend this service to other train lines. The new compartments have air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, comfortable airline style seating and modern washrooms.
Sri Lanka’s second international airport is opening in Hambantota in the south of the island in December 2012. This will act as a gateway to the east and south coasts. Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad and Jet Airways provide a very good service currently between London and Colombo and there are rumours that BA may start flying this route as well.
Domestically, SriLankan Airlines’ Air Taxis are now operating to the more popular tourist destinations in the south and the hill country and connect Colombo to Bentota, Kogalla (Galle), Dikwella (Tangalle), Dambulla, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Flights are inexpensive starting from £56.00 per person (one way); private charter of the 15 seater aircraft is also surprisingly cost effective even for groups as small as four adults.
Deccan Aviation Lanka have a 4 seater helicopter (Bell 206 B3 Jet Ranger) and a fixed wing plane (GA 8 Airvan) that are available for private charter.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority plans to expand tourism development into areas where tourism is underdeveloped at present in a sustainable manner. Some of the key/ priority areas that are earmarked for development under the project include:
The 5 best hotels to have opened recently include:
Uga Resorts (the group behind Ulagalla) are opening 2 new properties: one in Kuchchaveli, Trincomalee planned for May 2012 called Jungle Beach, and another called Uga Bay opening in October 2012, situated right next door to the new Malu Malu resort in Passekudah.
The Shangri-La will be opening two new properties – one in Colombo in 2014 which overlooking Galle Face Green; and a beachside resort in Hambantota opening in 2013, which is in the south-east of the island where the new port and international airport will be opening in 2012.
A new Six Senses Resort & Spa will be opening in Ahungalla about 30 minutes north of Galle. It will be set on a 10.5 acre plot next to Heritance Ahungalla as well as a 27-acre island nearby and is due to open in 2012. Six Senses Group are opening another resort in Kalpitiya (details above).
Sri Lanka is now considered to be only second to Africa for big wildlife sightings. Where Africa has its ‘Big Five’ land mammals – the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape Buffalo – Sri Lanka has four counterparts: the Sri Lankan subspecies of leopard, Asian Elephant, Sloth Bear and Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo. In addition it offers a fifth giant, the Blue Whale (the biggest animal of all) out in the surrounding ocean. Sri Lanka is the best place in the world to see Blue Whales. It is also offers the best chance of seeing both Blue and Sperm Whales on the same sailing.
From January 2012, visitors to Sri Lanka must apply for travel authorisation online prior to arrival, replacing the current ‘on arrival visa’ system. This new ‘Electronic Travel Authorisation’, or ETA, will be granted within 24 hours (it will generally be approved instantly) and the $50 fee is payable online.
FAST FACTS ABOUT SRI LANKA
Full name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Population: 20.4 million (UN, 2010)
Area: 65,610 sq km (max length 432 km & width 224km) slightly smaller than island of Ireland which is 84, 431 sq km
Length of coastline: 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles)
Highest peak: Mt. Piduruthalagala 2524m
Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
Major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee
Main exports: Clothing and textiles, tea, gems, rubber, coconuts
GNI per capita: US $1,990 (World Bank, 2009)
Locations inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List:
New locations currently on the Tentative List -
www.ampersandtravel.com / 020 7289 6100
For more information please contact Julia Perowne or Paul Charles at PCC – Perowne Charles Communications