“As a country empowered by a renewed commitment to peace, reconciliation and prosperity, Sri Lanka is the land where twenty one million smiles will welcome you to experience its wonders”, said Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya to a large group of US travel enthusiasts gathered at the Sri Lanka Residence in Washington on Thursday, October 3.
The Embassy hosted this group at a dinner reception to announce the 2013 Ambassador’s Signature Tour to Sri Lanka jointly organized by the Embassy and the International Club of DC.
The tour is being organized for the second year as part of the embassy’s dynamic country promotional campaign.
Around 50 US tourists are expected to join this exclusive 10-day tour package to Sri Lanka on their own expense.
The initiative is expected to provide a window of opportunity for the Sri Lankan travel industry to enter into the US market which has shown a steady growth every year since 2009.
Welcoming guests, Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya said the trip will provide a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the US travelers to experience the paradise Island of Sri Lanka.
Disclosing the travel itinerary, he said the trip covers some of the best tourist attractions in the Island including the UNESCO world heritage sites, wildlife safaris, pristine beaches and the tea plantations in the central hills.
“In this unforgettable journey you will visit the renowned Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala, the ancient rock fortress of Srigiriya, the sacred Temple of Tooth Relic in Kandy , the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya, and also enjoy an exciting wildlife safari in Minneriya, experience tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya and finally the golden beaches of Hikkaduwa”, the Ambassador elaborated.
The Ambassador further informed the audience that they would be travelling in one of the safest and friendliest countries for the tourists in the world today.
“Since the dawn of peace in 2009 , there has been not a single incident related to terrorism or loss of life due to terrorism reported in Sri Lanka . So, we are inviting you not only to one of the most beautiful countries of the world but also to one of the safest”, he added.
Ambassador also presented the audience with some of independent international indicators about Sri Lanka for them to understand the current status in the country.
“Tourist arrival to Sri Lanka has increased by 123% in 2012 compared with 2009. UNDP compiled Human Development Index ranks Sri Lanka at 97 , the highest in the South Asian region. In the doing business index of the World Bank , Sri Lanka has climbed up to 81 in 2013 from 89 in 2012. We have achieved significant improvement in all internationally accepted indicators including the Economic Freedom Index , Corruption Perception Index, and Global Competitive Index”, he added.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya thanked the International Club of DC for partnering with the Embassy to organize the trip and commended its effort to promote understanding of different cultures.
President of the International Club of DC, Sanjaya Hettihewa in his remarks mentioned that his organization now in its 10th year is working with over 70 Embassies in Washington DC to create international cultural experiences for the professionals in Washington.
“But, it is very special for me whenever I do something with the Embassy of Sri Lanka …because I was born in Sri Lanka” , he said.
Mr. Hettihewa underscored that the participants of the Ambassador’s Signature Tour would be privileged visitors to Sri Lanka due to the Embassy’s contribution in organizing it.
“If you join us in December, it’s going to be a very special opportunity for you to experience a country in a way you will never get otherwise”, he added.
The event also featured a special tea tasting session for the guests to experience the seven natural flavors of Ceylon Tea while guests were treated to a delectable Sri Lankan dinner prepared by the Embassy chefs.
The United States is among the top 10 sources of origin of tourists to Sri Lanka. Over 30,000 US tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2012 marking a 25 % increase compared to 2011. The Embassy’s country promotional program targets to achieve 45,000 tourist arrivals from the US by 2015 and approximately 100, 000 arrivals by 2017.