French Travel Agents Congress (Les Entreprises du Voyage) in Sri Lanka, from 31st October to 04th November 2016

The French Travel Agents Congress was convened in Colombo from 31st October to 04th November 2016 and over 300 Travel Agents attended this event along with local tourism stakeholders. It is also the second time in 15 years that this event had been held in Asia.  The Inaugural Session was held at the BMICH attended by Dr Sarath Amunugama as special Representative of HE the President.  It was revealed during the congress that Sri Lanka is now once again in the top 20 out-bound travel destinations of France and it was highlighted that Sri Lanka will be named the ‘destination to travel for 2017’ for French Travelers. ‘Our common goal is to re-establish Sri Lanka as a prime destination in the Indian Ocean for French travellers’,  LEV President Jean-Pierre Mas said at the inauguration. Mas also noted that the French travel professionals have no worry over Sri Lanka’s quality of product, safety and stability for tourism. His endorsement comes at a time when security concerns are on the rise at popular tourism destinations across Europe and the Middle East.

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(Inauguration of the conference by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, in the presence of Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Special Assignments; Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development; Hon. Arundika Fernando, Deputy Minister of Tourism Development; Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France, H.E. Tilak Ranaviraja; French Ambassador to Sri Lanka, H.E Jean-Marin Schuh and Mr. Daneal Weerakkody)

The inaugural evening was made more memorable with a touch of glamour, through a performance by the Channa – Upuli dance troupe, blending different Sri Lankan dance styles with modern and traditional music accompaniment. 

Madam Martine Pinville, State Minister for Commerce and Small- Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and Socio- Economy of France Tourism was the special guest representing the French Travel Agents at this event. During her stay in Colombo meetings were arranged for Madam Pinville to meet with Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera and Tourism Minister John Amaratunga to discuss matters of bilateral importance including trade, investment and tourism promotion.
 

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(Mrs Martine Pinville, State Minister for Commerce and Small-Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and Socio-Economy of France Tourism with Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development and Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France H.E. Tilak Ranaviraja)

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Chief Guest at the official dinner to welcome the French travel agents and the French Minister of Tourism, Madam Martine Pinville attending the LEV Congress in Colombo. The dinner was held at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. The French travel agents had the exclusive opportunity to taste the authentic food specially prepared to give them a taste of Sri Lanka.

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(The conference dinner with the Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka; ; Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development; Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France H.E. Tilak Ranaviraja; French Ambassador to Sri Lanka, and Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Mr. Paddy Withana)

At a press briefing held at the end of the Congress, Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said by hosting the LEV 2016 Congress, Sri Lanka wishes to open its full tourism potential to the French market in the coming years, speaking at the press briefing LEV Vice President Richard Soubielle explained the potential for French tourists to visit Sri Lanka. During their stay the participants took a specially booked train to Habarana from Fort railway station on a sightseeing tour organized by the Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau. They also visited Negombo, and Sigiriya with excursions to the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka. 

Created in 1944, LEV  previously known as SNAV is a professional organization, it has a membership of 1400 state approved travel agencies and tour operators of France representing more than 5,000 sales points in the country with the objective of attaining economic and social sustainability of the industry.  LEV travel agencies network with major associations of institutional tourism and is a permanent member of ECTAA (European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations).
 

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(Group photo of Hon. John Amarathunga, Minister of Tourism Developmen; Madam Martine Pinville, State Minister for Commerce and Small- Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and Socio- Economy of France Tourism; Ambassador of Sri Lanka to France H.E. Tilak Ranaviraja ; French Ambassador to Sri Lanka, H.E Jean-Marin Schuh; Mr. Paddy Withana, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau; Mr. Prema Cooray, Chairman, Sri Lanka Convension Bureau; Mr. Alexi Gunasekera, Counsellor, Sri Lanka Embassy, France; Ms. Achini Dandunnage, Senior Manager, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau; LEV President Jean-Pierre Mas; LEV Vice President Richard Soubielle and Travel Agents )

Hosting the event is a significant landmark for Sri Lanka. French tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka stand at approx 87,000 for the year 2015, having moved up from 16,905 in 2009.  So far this year, an overall growth of 13% have been projected with a target of 100,000 by the end of the year. France has the potential of generating more than 300,000 tourists to Sri Lanka and this event will be a major catalyst in attracting the French travellers who are interested not only in leisure tourism but in the MICE segment, adventure tourism and other themes of attractions promoted by Sri Lanka.

During this event a considerable number of French travel agents had the opportunity to experience Sri Lanka for themselves and to become familiar with the country.   France has emerged as the fifth largest sourcing market for Sri Lankan tourism and the congress gave an opportunity to showcase the country to a large number of French travel agents. France generates the highest number of incentive travellers from all of Europe to Sri Lankan tourist industry. According to available statistics incentive travellers spend at least three times more than leisure travellers.  Along with this promotional event, Sri Lanka will bilaterally engage with French authorities in developing and branding the country as a destination in the western hemisphere. 

The exposure gained at this Congress will have a spillover effect in many other fields in the country and will further consolidate and strengthen the relationship between the people of Sri Lanka and France. Initiated by the Commercial Section of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Paris, the official campaign to bring SNAV Congress to Sri Lanka was spearheaded by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in France, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and was supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Christian Affairs and Land and the Industry authorities and Sri Lankan Airlines. 
Ambassador Tilak Ranaviraja and Commercial Counsellor, Mr. Alexi Gunasekera were present during the Congress and closely coordinated the visit of Madam Martine Pinville and other related events in ensuring the success of the Congress.

Embassy of Sri Lanka 
Paris 
09th November 2016