As appeared on Ceylon Today, Date: 17th January 2014
Sri Lanka is ready to tie up with TUI, one of the world’s leading travel companies to promote the country as a tourist destination through a joint venture with TUI’s strong channels across the globe, a senior official told Ceylon FT.
TUI Chief Executive Officer, Peter Long, paid a short visit to Sri Lanka to explore opportunities here. He also had fruitful discussions with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa with a view to exploring the opportunities available in the country.
A spokesman for Aitken Spence said, the President was very keen on TUI’s interest in Sri Lanka and had encouraged the TUI officials on their proposed projects and future expansion plans as it is the right time for large scale investments of this nature.
During the discussions with the Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, he had said that the government was open for suggestions to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. TUI at a recent discussion held in Colombo revealed that it was willing to support the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority to help promote the country in the 31 source markets in which it was well established around the world.
TUI Chief Executive Officer, Peter Long, highlighting his plans in Sri Lanka said, that they had a significant opportunity here in Sri Lanka to grow their business.
“With one of our key partners, Riu Hotels Group is entering through a joint venture with our local partner Aitken Spence, to develop a new hotel of some 500 rooms, which will be available by the end of next year or 2016. With an investment of US$ 100 million, it is going to be a landmark opportunity for
Sri Lanka,” he said.
Having this scale of hotels, I think is unusual here in Sri Lanka as the project is unique in its concept, since it will introduce charter flights to the country.
He said, “We have been biased towards flying to the west from Europe to the Caribbean; but we are very much excited about the opportunities in Asia. In line with Riu we are looking at the possibility of resuming charter flights to Sri Lanka.”
The hotel in Ahungalle will have a business model of getting 200-300 long-stay guests who will arrive in Boeing 787 Dreamliner charter flights.
“Whenever we look to develop a new destination, we want to work with our local partners; we want to be sustainable and we want to be long-term. We are never in a hurry and that’s the key to what we want to do.”
Answering a question from the journalists, Long said, “If we commence charter services it will be a single charter per week.”
TUI is the only tour operator that brings in 20,000 tourists per year to Sri Lanka and with the Riu’s commitment the numbers will increase considerably.
TUI is the only airline in Europe, which operates Boeing 787 Dreamliners on leisure routes and it brings a significant advantage to the company with the whole new 787 Dreamliner flight experience. Hence, the combination of TUI’s 787, Riu and Aitken Spence blends well to provide a lot of confidence to develop a much more significant business in Sri Lanka.
Further elaborating he said, “I think the entry of Riu will bring about significant opportunities for us because we have strong relations with Riu across all destinations. We need scale and if we are to operate our flights here, we need bigger numbers and we want to work with larger hotels to make sure that there is sufficient accommodation available.
Thus, the Riu project is very important and exciting for us. My feeling today is that there are exciting opportunities in Sri Lanka and we want to convert this opportunity into a detailed plan. We are still at the early stages in terms of formulating our long-term plans in Sri Lanka, but it is certainly our intention to have a greater number of holidays available within the Asian region. In this context Sri Lanka can play a key role in terms of our developments,” Long explained.
In addition, TUI also has a number of smaller specialized businesses that can be attracted by the number of opportunities available in Sri Lanka such as smaller niche boutique hotels and tailor made holiday packages.
TUI Travel’s aim is to support sustainability change at scale, both across our own operations with reduced carbon emissions.
In terms of our ongoing growth of the specialized business, we see a huge market in Sri Lanka for tailor made holidays. At present TUI caters to a number of iconic destinations with tailor made holiday packages to South East Asian countries, South America and India.
Continuous developments in the infrastructure are highly important for the growth of the tourism industry in any country. With scale tourism coming in we need accommodation for those travelers; so increasing the room capacity is essential. Nevertheless, it does not mean 20 story ugly buildings, which disrespect the environment, but in a sustainable manner, Long noted.