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Marella Discovery makes her maiden call to Colombo

27 Dec



Super luxury passenger vessel M.V. Marella Discovery of Marella Cruises with 1,732 passengers and 764 crew on board made her maiden call at the Port of Colombo in December 2018.

In order to mark the maiden call of the vessel at the Port of Colombo plaque exchanges were held between the Master of the vessel, SLPA, local agents – Aitken Spence Shipping Ltd and travel operator – Aitken Spence Travels Ltd.

On behalf of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Capt. Athula Hewavitharana – Managing Director exchanged plaques with the Master of Marella Discovery – Capt. Christopher N. Dodds. Mr. Iqram Cuttilan – Managing Director of Aitken Spence Shipping and Mr. Nalin Jayasundera – Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels exchanged plaques with the Master on behalf of the Aitken Spence Group subsidiaries.

Expressing views at the occasion, the Managing Director of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) – Capt. Athula Hewavitharana said that the Port of Colombo was honoured by the presence of Marella Discovery in Colombo.

Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises) is a British cruise line offering cruise holidays around Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. Marella Discovery is approximately 264 meters in length and 32 meters wide having 902 state rooms with a capacity to accommodate up to 2,074 passengers. The excursions organised by Aitken Spence Travels had over 1,000 passengers joining in to enjoy the city and immediate locations of Sri Lanka such as the Colombo heritage walk, exploring the city of Galle and Sri Lankan river safari.

Marella Discovery commenced its voyage from Europe calling at Italy, Crete and moving onto Egypt, Jordan, Oman, U.A.E. and several ports in India on her way to Sri Lanka and will thereafter cruise towards Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. The vessel that cruised under the flag of Malta called Colombo from Cochin, India and Sabang, Indonesia is her next port of call.

Established in 1868, Aitken Spence PLC marks its 150th anniversary. The Company has grown to great heights, especially with the diversification of the company in 2004 into non-traditional areas. The Company’s involvement in port efficiency enhancement projects in new markets has helped to successfully pursue a long-term directional shift from being service-related to becoming an investment-driven operation.

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Aitken Spence Travels Wins Best Inbound Tour Operator at the Tourism Awards 2018

14 Dec

Aitken Spence Travels, won the Best Inbound Tour Operator under the category of Travel & Tourism Operator – Large, at the National Tourism Awards 2018 conducted by The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

Aitken Spence Travels were the recipient of the same category in 2012 at the Presidential awards, as it was known then. The company had won this prestigious award for three consecutive years previously and it was the only destination management company to enter the Hall of Fame.

This year the winners were chosen by a panel of eminent industry experts & respected corporate professionals. The competition entailed a written application and presentation to the judging panel and site visits. The criteria covered audited Financial performance, Corporate Social Responsibility, commitment to the environment, Business and marketing plans, Customer care, HR and Sustainability.

This accolade won by Aitken Spence Travels further confirms its preeminent position of powering the spirit of travel to surpass its competitors, in been recognised for its achievements in Sri Lanka’s Tourism industry, contributions made in uplifting the industry standards through destination marketing, innovation, best practices and for the overall contribution to the growth of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

“Over the years, Aitken Spence Travels has been opening new markets across continents to expand and enrich the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. In the last financial year, the company served more than 178,000 happy visitors from across the globe to grow its overall arrivals to 16%, when Sri Lanka’s national average on arrivals were at 7%. The company can boldly state that we are the single largest room inventory buyer of 500,000 room nights of different star category hotels across the island and have generated over 1500 indirect employment opportunities in the communities we work and operate”, stated Nalin Jayasundera, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels.

Achievements such as this is possible due to the hard work, commitment and professionalism of our team and the many stakeholders who partner to deliver the best experience of Sri Lanka to our discerning guests of varied backgrounds.

“I take this opportunity to place my sincere appreciation and thanks to my staff of Aitken Spence Travels who has always upheld the high standards maintained by the company with professionalism, quick response and attention to detail towards our travel agents’ inquiries and their visitor needs and wants. We are immensely grateful to our valuable Tour Operator partners who have trusted us for our expertise and built long standing partnerships, which is one of the pillars to our success. Our sincere thanks also goes to the numerous hotel partners who have worked closely with us in delivering high standard products and the numerous suppliers who have grown with us in delivering an exceptional experience of destination Sri Lanka”, added Mr. Jayasundera.

“Our sincere gratitude to our joint venture partner TUI, the world’s largest integrated tourism company that has synergised their strengths to work closely with Aitken Spence Travels and bring about the much needed charters, cruises and groups. We also express our sincere gratitude to our chairman and board of directors for their trust, confidence and guidance to the Aitken Spence Travels team”, said Mr. Jayasundera.

The tourism industry has the potential to be the number one foreign exchange earner for the country if all stakeholders of the tourism industry work together to achieve this objective. However, ‘Ones destiny is in ones own hands’, hence we will pursue in moving forward to achieve the 200,000 happy visitor mark for the 2018/19 financial year and will continue to be the highest foreign exchange earning destination management company in Sri Lanka.

Aitken Spence Travels brings 24 charters from the UK

29 Nov

Aitken Spence Travels is attracting the only charter flight operation from the UK to Sri Lanka this season, with 24 flights scheduled from early November 2018 to 30th April 2019. The charter operated by TUI UK will see a Thomson Airways 300-seat Dreamliner bringing in tourists from the UK over the course of six months.

Holidaymakers will be accommodated in beach resorts from Waikkala to Hikkaduwa and the round tour clients will be accommodated in several hotels in the Cultural Triangle, Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya.

The charter operation is expected to generate more than 50,000 room nights to hotels in Sri Lanka during the season, giving a significant boost to the industry’s demand from the UK. As the official ground handler, Aitken Spence Travels will be organizing logistics, transport, accommodation and tours of all the travellers.

The first flight which landed on Wednesday 7th November was warmly welcomed by Aitken Spence Travels at the Bandaranaike International Airport with traditional dancers & lotus flower welcome.

This is the third consecutive year that Aitken Spence Travels has attracted the large charter operation from the UK. Previous to last year, the last charter from the UK market was in 2010. Since then it has taken much effort and dedication to convince the charter operators to resume their flights back to Sri Lanka considering the aggressive competition posed by competing destinations.

Tourist arrivals from the UK has shown steady growth over the last few years, growing by 41 per cent in 2018 the country recorded a total of 205,377 visotors from UK against 166,489 visitors in 2017 by end October.

“Aitken Spence Travels is the only destination management company in Sri Lanka to handle a charter from the UK. This is due to our longstanding partnership with TUI, a global giant in the tourism industry. A great amount of effort was made over the year to secure the charter for the third consecutive year despite tremendous competition from other destinations. Our commitment, consistency in service and agility displayed during the charter operation last year helped us secure the charter for Sri Lanka this year. Sri Lanka as a tourist destination needs to be promoted more aggressively among the UK public in order to capitalize on the efforts made by industry players”, said Prasanjit Perera, Vice President, Aitken Spence Travels.

Aitken Spence Travels welcomed charter from Poland for second consecutive year

26 Nov

Aitken Spence Travels welcomed its first charter from Poland together with TUI Poland for the second consecutive year. The Polish tourists were warmly welcomed by the staff of Aitken Spence Travels & TUI partner staff with flowers, beetle leaves and welcome dancers together with drummers performing a traditional Welcome to Sri Lanka.

The Polish charter will be attracting 13 charter flights from Poland with one arriving every 11 days until end March 2019. It is estimated that 24,000 room nights will be used by the Polish travellers, predominantly staying at beach properties and taking up day excursions to explore the diversity the country has to offer.

The flights are a result of the longstanding partnership between TUI, the world’s largest integrated tourism company and Aitken Spence Travels. Arrivals from Poland has shown a 6.3% growth in 2017 recording 15,346 pax against 2016 of 14,432 pax. However, country arrivals from Poland as at end September 2018 was 14,078 pax and is expected to grow positively.

Commenting on the Charter flight Niranjan Rodrigo, Vice President, Aitken Spence Travels stated “Despite the severe competition in the industry, we were able to convince TUI Poland to operate this charter flight with Aitken Spence Travels from Warsaw to Colombo, Sri Lanka. We have negotiated with hoteliers to make the destination attractive by way of special rates and have extend our fullest support to TUI Poland to promote destination Sri Lanka aggressively among their agents. We are confident that this charter operation will be a great success for the 2nd consecutive year and build confidence with our partners to continue the charter operation and look at avenues to grow the numbers.  We will work with TUI Poland to strengthen our partnership to allow more Polish tourists to visit Sri Lanka and experience Sri Lanka’s diverse attractions apart from the Sun and Sea proposition with attractive innovative tours & itineraries”

Aitken Spence Travels records landmark 178,000 Happy visitors to destination Sri Lanka

18 May

Aitken Spence Travels, the largest inbound tour operator in the country closed the 2017/18 financial year with a total inbound volume exceeding 178,000 happy visitors to Destination Sri Lanka. This year’s performance builds on the previous year’s record high of 153,000 tourists by far the largest number of visitor arrivals handled by any Destination Management Company in the country. The Aitken Spence Travels’ growth was recorded at 16% while during the same period the country arrivals grew by 7%.

Commenting on the feat the Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels Mr. Nalin Jayasundera stated, “This achievement was possible due to our continues efforts in diversifying to new markets and growing the existing markets by securing new business.  I am happy to note our increased visitor numbers resulted in the Company recording the highest ever profit thus far. This was due to the excellent team work of the staff who ensured that our clients are served with dedication and professionalism coupled with years of experience in the tourism industry”.

“The contribution of our Tour Operator partners has been significant to the Company’s achievements.  We place our sincere appreciation for the support extended by Hotel partners, airline’s and other suppliers for playing a significant role. The 41 year journey of Aitken Spence Travels is built on the ethos of trust and partnerships. We are privileged to have the best practices of TUI, the world’s largest integrated tourism company and the strength and backing of Aitken Spence group”, he added.

Aitken Spence Travels is active in many diverse segments of tourism. The Company’s Cruise shore excursions business commands market leadership in the country. The cruise business is a growing segment and Sri Lanka has potential to offer a multi-port offering to differentiate in order to secure future business.

The charter flight operations have been growing and the Company has continued to handle charters from U.K., Sweden, Finland and Russia. In 2017/18 together with TUI, Aitken Spence Travels handled a charter from Poland for the first time which operated flights every 10 days. Due to the successful charter operation TUI will be operating a second charter for winter 2018/19 from Poland.

The Company has also made inroads on sports tours handled and have brought many teams from different sporting disciplines. Cricket by far is the most popular but netball, rugby and hockey tours have grown, and the Company has made inroads with golf tourism.

As the only award-winning conference organiser, AST events unit managers international and local business and consumer events. The event portfolio covers medical, IT, education and consumer trade fairs. Flagship local events such as Colombo Shopping Festival, Home and You, the Best Brand Show has attracted over 175,000 local visitors per annum. The unit also specialises in handling events in Maldives.

 

In addition to giving back to the community in numerous ways, Aitken Spence Travels is among the few companies in Sri Lanka that offsets its carbon footprint across its operations. Visitors continue to place their trust and confidence in the Company as they too become part of the organisations greater responsibility towards minimising carbon footprint when partaking on tours and excursions designed to have minimum impact to the environment and nature. The Travel Life Certification was secured for the operations keeping in line with global sustainable tourism practices.

Since 2015 the Company has been handling over one hundred thousand inbound clients and have not looked back since then. The formula for continuous success has been the commitment of the management and dedication of the staff to achieve a common corporate objective. The Company carries out its own promotions in partnership with tour operators to create a better demand for the destination.

It is envisaged that the tourism industry and its stakeholders will stand to gain from the proposed digital promotion campaign. It is also important to have a sustained and an effective marketing campaign for the benefit of the tourism sector stakeholders and the overall economy of the country.

Looking further Aitken Spence Travels hopes to continue to strengthen and build its international market position. The Company will continue to shape the tourism industry, by pioneering in terms of innovation in products and exploring markets be it Sports, MICE, Cruises, Nature, Luxury, Online and Charter operations.

Aitken Spence Travels Partners TUI to Bring 12 Charter Flights from the UK

22 Nov

Aitken Spence Travels is attracting the only charter flight operation from the UK to Sri Lanka this season, with 12 flights scheduled to land from 14th November 2017 to 30th April 2018. The charter operated by TUI UK will see a Thomson Airways 300-seat Dreamliner bringing in 3,600 tourists from the UK over the course of five months.

Holidaymakers will be accommodated in 15 beach resorts from Waikkala to Hikkaduwa as well as in several hotels in Cultural Triangle, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

The charter operation is expected to generate more than 25,000 room nights to hotels in Sri Lanka during the season, giving a significant boost to the industry’s demand from the UK. As the official ground handler, Aitken Spence will be organizing logistics, transport, accommodation and tours of all the travellers.

The first flight which landed on Tuesday 14th November was warmly welcomed by Aitken Spence Travels at the Bandaranaike International Airport with traditional dancers.

This is the second consecutive year that Aitken Spence Travels has attracted the large charter operation from the UK. Previous to last year, the last charter from the UK market was in 2010. Since then it has taken much effort and dedication to convince the charter operators to resume their flights back to Sri Lanka considering the aggressive competition posed by competing destinations.

Tourist arrivals from the UK has shown steady growth over the last few years, growing by 16 per cent in 2016 to 188,159 while arrivals in 2017 till the month of September stood at 153,971, according to official sources.

“Aitken Spence Travels is the only destination management company in Sri Lanka to handle a charter from the UK. This is due to our longstanding partnership with TUI, a global giant in the tourism industry. A great amount of effort was made over the year to secure the charter for the second consecutive year despite tremendous competition from other destinations. Our commitment, consistency in service and agility displayed during the charter operation last year helped us secure the charter for Sri Lanka this year. Sri Lanka as a tourist destination needs to be promoted more aggressively among the UK public in order to capitalize on the efforts made by industry players”, said Prasanjit Perera, Vice President, Aitken Spence Travels.

Aitken Spence Travels to Bring 13 Charter Flights from Poland This Season

9 Nov

Strengthening a new front in its efforts to promote tourism to Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence Travels announced that it will be attracting 13 charter flights from Poland this season, with one arriving every 10 days till mid-March 2018.

The flights are a result of the longstanding partnership between TUI, the world’s largest integrated tourism company and Aitken Spence Travels.

Sri Lanka’s largest travel company said that the first of the charter flights arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Saturday the 4th November. The 189 Polish tourists were warmly welcomed by Aitken Spence Travels with lotus flowers and by a performance by traditional dancers.

A total of about 2400 Polish tourists are expected to arrive through this Charter operation generating an estimated 12,285 room nights, mostly at beach properties in the island.

“Despite the severe competition in the industry, we were able to convince TUI Poland to operate this charter flight with Aitken Spence Travels to Sri Lanka.  We will extend our fullest support to TUI Poland to promote the destination aggressively among their agents.  With the previous experiences that we have gained, we are confident that this charter operation will be a great success.  We will work with TUI Poland to strengthen our partnership to allow more Polish tourists experience Sri Lanka’s varied attractions”, said Niranjan Rodrigo, Vice President, Aitken Spence Travels.

Ireneusz Golabek, Head of Operations and Destination Services, TUI Poland said, “The TUI Polish charter will operate this winter season from Warsaw to Colombo. We are very happy and excited to be operating this charter with our long-standing destinations partner Aitken Spence Travels. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and can offer much more than the Sun and Beach. I am confident and feel strongly that the Polish Travellers will also be excited to explore the beautiful nature and culture your country has to offer. The excursions developed by our destinations partner is exciting and very good. We will look at the feedback of our Polish customers to explore continuity. I am happy that we have managed to grow from a very small operation to what we are enjoying today and am hopeful that it will grow from strength to strength.”

Arrivals from Poland to Sri Lanka in 2013 was 9688, which grew by 38% to 13,370 in 2014. However, numbers stagnated to 13,245 in 2015, while picking up by 9% in 2016 to 14,432. Polish arrivals to Sri Lanka from January to September in 2017 has seen a drop of 2% year-on-year. The Aitken Spence – TUI Poland charter operation is expected to boost the tourism arrivals from Poland to Sri Lanka.

Aitken Spence Travels to Bring 20 Charter Flights from Russia this Season

31 Oct

For the second consecutive year, Aitken Spence Travels will be bringing in 20 charter flights from Russia for the annual season. The first charter flight for 2017/18, a Boeing 767 operated by Royal Flight arrived in Sri Lanka on Friday the 27th October carrying 325 tourists from Russia. The charter operation was realized through the longstanding partnership between Coral Travel, a leading travel company in Russia and Aitken Spence Travels, Sri Lanka’s largest travel company. Aitken Spence served an unprecedented 153,000 visitors to Sri Lanka, during its last financial year.

The tourists who arrived on the charter flight were given a warm traditional welcome by presenting the national flower of the country and by a welcome performance by traditional dancers. The charter operation from Russia this year is expected to generate around 30,000 room nights, via a network of 55 hotel partners of Aitken Spence Travels.

“Due to the difficult market conditions last year, the Russian arrivals to the country was not positive. However, Coral Travel has maintained their confidence in the destination by continuing the charter program this year by working with Aitken Spence Travels to operate the Charter. The numbers from the Russian and CIS regions to Aitken Spence Travels has grown by 86% as a result of a very strong promotional campaign carried out by our partners”, said Vice President of Aitken Spence Travels, Darell De Crusz.

Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels Mr. Nalin Jayasundera commented, “This Charter will be operating thrice monthly once again, in cooperation with our longstanding partner – Coral Travels. We must convey our appreciation to the dynamism and the commitment of Coral Travel for believing in Sri Lanka as a destination. Whilst the destination faces many challenges, we believe that strong partnerships fostered over the years and aggressive marketing is the way forward”.

Significantly Coral Travel Celebrated their 25th Anniversary this year and has continued to offer the best resorts and hotels in 35 countries of the world including Sri Lanka. The brand Coral Travel is positioned in the Russian market as a brand of reliability and quality and has had a strong and healthy partnership with Aitken Spence Travels who have been in the DMC business for four decades.

Aitken Spence Travels Wins ‘Best in Class’ Award at Interactive Media Awards

22 Feb

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Aitken Spence Travels received the ‘Best in Class’ award presented by the Interactive Media Awards (IMA) for its revamped Aitken Spence Holidays website in the Travel and Tourism category. The ‘Best in Class’ award is the highest honour awarded by the IMA for excellence in planning, execution and overall professionalism. In order to achieve this award, the website passed through a comprehensive judging process, excelling in each of the judging criterion. The laurel is presented to very few websites each year for meeting the required mark.

The Aitken Spence Holidays unit is the Outbound operation of Aitken Spence Travels that provides a comprehensive set of services related to its Sri Lankan travellers. The service portfolio offered by Aitken Spence Travels Holidays unit consists of Issuing of Air Tickets, Assistance in obtaining visas, Assistance in obtaining new passports, Renewals, Holiday and business packages to exotic destinations, Pilgrim tours to Dambadiva and Holy land, Tours to global trade fairs, Special packages for Sports events & Musical concerts, Cruise packages, Overseas hotel accommodation, Rail tickets on Rail Europe,  Issuance of Currency & Travel Cards, Airport Drop & Pick up, Travel Insurance and Emirates holidays packages.

The role of Aitken Spence Travels has evolved to an organisation with almost 40 years of service to the Sri Lankan traveller and has some of the leading business organisations entrusting their travel needs and services through the company.

‘The Interactive Media Awards is an open competitive platform targeted at felicitating individuals and organizations involved in designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting websites. The awards are judged by an independent committee appointed by Interactive Media Council Inc. (IMC), the hosting organization of this award’ stated Rajitha Dahanayake CEO of E Marketing Eye the company responsible for the revamp of the Aitken Spence Holidays web site.

“We pride ourselves on the ability to understand our customers and cater to their exact requirements in the most customer-centric way. In recent years, it has become clear that digital is a necessary medium by which to engage customers and we have wholeheartedly strengthened our efforts in that area. We are ever prepared to offer our customers an avenue to discover new destinations, personalise it and offer new ideas to make travel plans.” commented Nalin Jayasundera, Managing Director – Aitken Spence Travels.

TUI – World’s Largest Tourism Group to Boost Destination Sri Lanka

3 Mar
TUI_CEO_Fritz Joussen

Fritz Joussen, Group CEO – TUI Group

A high profile delegation of TUI, the world’s number one integrated tourism Group, headed by the Group CEO Fritz Joussen will be visiting Sri Lanka today (Thursday). Organized by its joint venture partner Aitken Spence Travels, this would be the first time that Fritz Joussen will be visiting Sri Lanka. Joussen will be accompanied by other TUI top-level executives including: the CEO of TUI Germany, Managing Director of Product and Purchasing, CEO of TUI Nordic and Managing Director of TUI UK and Ireland on this visit. This visit highlights the focus on destination Sri Lanka and is a major endorsement from the global tourism giant.

TUI provides services along the entire tourism value chain for its 30 million plus customers from 31 source markets travelling to 180 destinations. It employs over 77,000 people in 130 countries. The group owns over 300 hotels & resorts with 210,000 beds, operating 136 aircrafts and 12 cruise ships. The company boasts revenues of €20.1 Billion in turnover and an operating result of €1.069 Billion. The TUI Group’s share is listed on the London Stock Exchange in the FTSE index and in the regulated market of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

The TUI group is an equal share partner of Aitken Spence Travels, the largest travel company in Sri Lanka. TUI enjoys a relationship of thirty five years with Aitken Spence, promoting Sri Lanka as a destination across a wide variety of source markets, especially in Europe. The partnership will be further strengthened with the commencement of planned charters from UK and Scandinavia, planned to start in the near future, along with the expected increase in arrivals from Germany and the Benelux region. The Lankan tourism industry will benefit greatly from these initiatives, adding traction to the tourism master plan of the country.

The TUI team is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Minister of Tourism Hon. John Amarathunga and with other key tourism industry officials during their one-day stay.

The delegation will also make visit to 501-room RIU Ahungalla – a joint venture with Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, which is currently under development. In addition, the TUI team will also visit other hotels that would be featured in its brochures. RIU Ahungalla once completed will be Sri Lanka’s largest beach hotel with 501 rooms. The hotel will offer a new segment of “all inclusive,” a first of its kind to Sri Lankan consumers and will extend its wings to its brand loyal customers travelling the globe. The TUI Charter operation will definitely generate more opportunities for other hotels to generate more business due to the increase in arrivals.

“TUI has continued to express interest in Sri Lanka as an important destination in the region. This historic visit is a result of a longstanding commitment and the growing openness in Sri Lanka. The overall increase of business from TUI will create opportunities for the growth of inbound numbers and the potential development of Sri Lanka’s tourism product that this visit may facilitate”, said Nalin Jayasundara, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Travels and a respected industry veteran.

As the country’s biggest tour operator, Aitken Spence Travels handles an annual volume of over 125,000 inbound tourists, and continuously strives to contribute to the growth of inbound volumes to the country.