These are exciting times for tourism in Sri Lanka.
The ‘peace dividend’, witnessed since the end of the civil war that had wracked the country for nearly three decades from the mid-1980s, has created a boom in the hospitality sector.
Millions of guests, principally from Europe, Australia and neighbouring India, are now flocking to the county as never before, creating a sense of optimism for the future.
Indeed, a report looking into Sri Lanka’s tourism industry recently carried out by Euromonitor confirmed that the Indian Ocean island currently offers some of Asia’s best opportunities for investment.
The author of the work, Vishnu Vardhan, research analyst at Euromonitor, explains: “The world is slowing down economically.
“People are looking for economical places to travel, so there’s an interest in inexpensive destinations.
“Sri Lanka is one of them. Growth in the sector was by 17 per cent in 2014-15 in terms of the number of inbound arrivals.
“Its lower cost is a main driver of visitor growth.”
With arrivals in 2015 of 1.8 million, expected to reach 2.6 million by 2020, the future certainly looks bright.
At the heart of this optimism sits a stalwart of the industry – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts.
Launched in 2005, the brand now offers a chain of 14 hotels across Sri Lanka and the Maldives, including three city-centre properties in capital Colombo, as well as eight resorts around Sri Lanka.
A full overview of locations can be found here.
Re-launched under the ‘Inspired Living’ banner last year, each Cinnamon property comes with its own personality, presence and experience, designed to offer the most unique travel experiences in south Asia.
The hotels are a reflection of the new and emerging Asia; modern, iconic, and vibrant spaces designed around the needs of contemporary travellers.
Cinnamon seeks to showcase a vibrant, inspiring, contemporary Sri Lankan way of life, one able to provide something for every traveller to the region.
For the adventurous, Cinnamon Air also offers a premier domestic Sri Lankan air taxi service to the most picturesque locations in the destination.
The experience affords passengers a bird’s-eye-view of the stunning scenery below, while significantly reducing surface travel time to destinations across the country.
There is also plenty of room for the brand to grow further.
Data from ForwardKeys recently demonstrated that Sri Lanka deserved congratulations for achieving 12 per cent growth in visitor arrivals by air during the past year, more than double that achieved by the Asia Pacific region as a whole.
Further information from STR revealed that, at the same time, the country’s hotels had maintained occupancy levels above 66 per cent and succeeded in lifting average daily rates to nearly 16,000 Sri Lankan Rupees, more than US$100 at today’s rate.
These are remarkable successes for a country that was until recently considered something of a no go area for all but the hardiest, or best informed, travellers.
During the first Asia Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference, hosted for the first time in Sri Lanka in November, several serious investors, including a delegation from China, expressed enthusiasm for opportunities in the country, citing its tremendous variety of attractions, such as ancient temples, wild elephants and unspoilt beaches, all within close range of each other.
Adding to the theme, Gerald Lawless, chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council, highlighted some of the factors that make a destination successful.
He pointed to the outbreak of peace in regions previously suffering from conflict, air connectivity, visa waivers and dedicated promotional initiatives aimed at major origin markets, infrastructure investment, an ethos which encourages genuine collaboration between business and government and a compelling vision of the future.
Other attractive attributes of the country were seen to be the good-natured ‘smiley’ demeanour of the people, the safe feeling one had walking the streets, even at night, a shortage of high-quality properties outside Colombo, the willingness of the government to invest in core infrastructure such as new roads and a British based legal system.
Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts is poised to exploit these developments, bringing a proven track record, local expertise and an established brand to the table.
Sri Lanka tourism minister, John Amaratunga, recently explained: “Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is very much private-sector driven.
“The government role is restricted to that of regulator, monitor and facilitator.
“I have formed an advisory committee of leaders of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries whose input is sought on a regular basis on all matters of national interest in the tourism sector.
“They are the driving force that guides the industry.
It will be down to Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts to take up the challenge and see Sri Lanka rise to the next stage of tourism development.
The scent of Cinnamon put Sri Lanka on the map centuries ago, in the glory days of the Spice Route.
Cinnamon is a timeless classic: a versatile, well-loved spice with the power to heal, rejuvenate, inspire, and stimulate the senses.
What the spice did for our history books, the Cinnamon brand strives to do today.
Find out more on the official Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts website.