Home' micenet eMag : micenet October 2018 Contents I
magine treating delegates to an elephant
spotting safari in a place much cheaper
than Africa. Or touring them through
spice-laden bazaars and historical
fortresses in a place much safer than India.
How about a group yoga session with a
picture-postcard view in a place far more
untouched than Bali? Imagine no longer, my
friends. I’m talking of course about Sri Lanka,
a little pearl-shaped island on the Indian
Ocean and a fixture on bucket lists
worldwide. The past decade has seen a
monumental shift for the country once called
Ceylon. In 2009, its grizzly, decades-long civil
war came to an end, and in 2015,
controversial President Mahinda Rajapaksa
was ousted, resulting in a steady climb in
both its global peace rating and human rights
record. The succeeding years have also seen
a burgeoning number of Insta-snapping
globetrotters flock to its golden shores and
rolling tea plantations. According to research
firm Euromonitor, Sri Lanka welcomed just
over one million visitors in 2012. By 2017, this number had more than doubled to 2.2 million,
and by 2022, the firm predicts that over three million people will descend upon the country.
As is the case with every place smack bang in the middle of a tourism boom, international
hotel chains have taken notice, airlines have upped their flight schedules and experience
providers have combined Sri Lanka’s cultural and natural wonders into curated group packages.
These developments are ripening the country for an international MICE audience, and
innumerable contingents from Europe, Russia and Africa have already discovered the magic. In
light of Sri Lanka Airlines announcing direct flights between Melbourne and Colombo (and, you
know, because it’s beautiful, diverse and unique), I took a look at why it’s time the Australian
business events industry jumped aboard the Sri Lanka tuk-tuk and headed there for their next
Up and at ‘em
From the coastal metropolis of Colombo through to the Cultural Triangle at its heart, Sri Lanka is
expanding its hotel and resort offering to accommodate a surging visitor intake. Within the next
two years, an estimated 4300 hotel rooms are predicted to come online across the country, with
the majority classified as luxury or upscale.
Marriott International currently has four properties under development with its Sheraton,
Marriott and Ritz-Carlton brands, while Hilton plans to launch six new properties across Sri
Lanka by 2021. Other brands expected to make up the room expansion are Cinnamon Life,
Hyatt, ITC, Shangri-La and Four Seasons.
Also predicted to come to fruition in 2021 is a $450 million expansion of Bandaranaike
International Airport. The addition of a second terminal is expected to see the country welcome
Stunning scenery? Check. Big name hotels? Check. Experience providers?
You betcha! This edition’s up-and-coming incentive destination is the
cricket-mad, naturally and culturally diverse island of Sri Lanka.
UP-AND-COMERS | LAURA BRADLEY
SRI LANKA Traditional Sri Lankan dancers can be called
upon for gala dinner entertainment.
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more than double its amount of international visitors, and with a 10-hour direct flight now
available between Melbourne and Colombo, it’s fair to say a chunk of those will come from Oz.
Diverse, compact, authentic
Marco Polo was onto something when he crowned Sri Lanka “the finest island of its size”. At a
modest 65,604 square kilometres (that’s smaller than Tasmania, FYI), the country is ideal for
time-conscious travellers looking to dip their toes into a range of experiences.
Only got two days to pack a punch with delegates? No worries. Day one, you can whip out
the binoculars and watch the group’s jaws drop as they witness the largest Asian elephant
congregation in the world at the Minneriya National Park. If you need some accommodation
close by, the five-star Cinnamon Lodge houses 68 Superior Rooms, two Superior Suites and a
Next up your group can emulate ol’ Marco by exploring some of the country’s enriching
cultural monuments, which span back over 2500 years. In a few hours of scenic driving,
delegates can visit the festival city of Kandy, home to renowned Buddhist relic The Temple of
the Tooth, the granite-hewn Cave Temples of Dambulla, which provided refuge to a king in the
first century BC and the Medieval Capital of Polonnaruwa, which is laden with 12th Century AD
ruins built by the country’s last warrior king.
With some adventure under their skin (and better chances at their next history trivia night), the
group can make their way back to one of the hotels, bungalows or villas smattered around the
sites. Some options include Earl’s Regency Kandy, a 133-room, five-star hotel that boasts a
1000 pax conference room, or the award-winning Sundaras Resort & Spa, which offers a range
of deluxe and superior rooms.
Early the next morning - after a delicious breakfast of hoppers and Ceylon tea - you can drive
the group a few hours to Sri Lanka’s characteristic coastline and catch some of the best surf
breaks in the world (which the locals are all too willing to share). Visitors can also snorkel amidst
shipwrecks and incandescent coral, enjoy a world-renowned seafood degustation on the sand
or make their way to Mirissa on the south coast to view blue whales from an awe-inspiring
vantage point. There aren’t many places on the globe you can witness the two largest mammals
in the wild within the space of a few hours.
None of this appeal to you? Well, with
eight UNESCO world heritage sites, 14
national parks, 1600 kilometres of beach,
a bevy of wellness retreats and five golf
courses, you’re not exactly short on
Plan it for me!
Does all of this sound fine and swell, but
you’d rather leave the planning to the locals?
You’re in luck. A range of incentive
companies specialising in uniquely Sri Lankan
experiences are teeming with ways to knock
your delegates’ socks off. One such example
is Sri Lanka Express, a full-service event
company that provides everything from
creative conception and production through
to market negotiation and logistics. They can
even help you out with some interpreters.
Contingents from Renault Belgium,
Santander Bank Poland, SEO Orthopedics
France and Mai Foods Russia have all
returned to work with sun-tanned faces and
phones full of tea hill selfies thanks to Sri
Lanka Express, and the team has made no
secret of the fact that Australian companies
really ought to be joining this list. What are
you waiting for? m
Sri Lanka Express can organise
bullock cart trips to villages for
a bona fide taste of the country.
The historically rich Cave
Temples of Dambulla.
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