Thomas Cook India buys Sri Lanka travel firm

Posted on 31 July 2015 by admin

Jul 31, 2015.

ECONOMYNEXT – Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, said it had bought Luxe Asia, a Sri Lanka-based travel company that with partnerships in the Middle East and East Asia, through its unit in the island.

Luxe Asia was part of Ceylon Hotel Holdings, a leisure group that owns Colombo's Galle Face Hotel.

The acquisition was carried out through Thomas Cook Lanka (Pvt) Ltd at an undisclosed price.

"Our acquisition of Luxe Asia reiterates delivery of our strategic intent of establishing a global destination management presence," Thomas Cook India Managing Director Madhavan Menon said in a statement.

"Luxe Asia will continue to focus on its core domain of inbound tourism across key global source markets."

Sri Lanka has become fast expanding destination for Indian travellers with easy visa and air connections.

Indian tourists to Sri Lanka grew 27 percent to 145,453 in the 6-months to June 2015 and is the largest source destination.

But Luxe Asia also has joint ventures in Dubai and East Asia, expanding its reach beyond the island. (Colombo/July31/2015)


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Posted on 23 August 2014 by admin

Rich in natural beauty and cultural splendours, Sri Lanka is certainly in the spotlight as a dream destination for avid travellers. Scott Armstrong explores one of the most beautiful islands of the world. All I am saying is give peace a chance,” John Lennon famously sang. A visit to Sri Lanka will prove the wisdom of his words. A country once bitterly divided by a civil war between the North and South, stability finally came four years ago when the Tamil Tigers finally gave up violence for diplomacy. Since that time this country defined by its raw natural beauty has gradually healed year on year, helped by an increasing number of tourists drawn to its beaches, landscapes and wildlife.

The nation of the Lion and the Sword, the country’s crest, is finally beginning to enjoy the spoils of peace not war. It took another step forward recently as its flag carrier airline Sri Lankan Airlines entered the OneWorld Alliance, connecting the country to one of the biggest global aviation networks. Oozes rustic luxury To the Western traveller this may seem a small and mundane matter, an added convenience to be sure, but to Sri Lanka it is symbolic of its march into a brighter future. Global acceptance, on any level, is always welcome especially in a country that has gone from cash handouts from the world community to financial independence. Tourists at the beach Sri Lanka, like its 22-fleet airline, is thriving and deservedly so. Travellers to this land now greeted by the infectious smiles and open hearts will find it difficult to comprehend how this was a land once scarred by war. It’s perhaps this that makes a visit to Sri Lanka all the more inspiring.

Flying into the capital city’s airport Colombo, the beach town, which feels more like a village, of Negombo is less than a 30 minute taxi drive away. Negombo, in the South of Sri Lanka, is a schizophrenic place with two faces, one which looks out to the sea, and one which looks at the bustling streets on which the locals go about their daily life. The face that looks to the sea is populated with hotels, such as the Jetwings Beach hotel, one of Sri Lanka’s best-known high quality chains which oozes rustic luxury. This is a pure beach resort, palm trees, pool bar, buffet restaurant, rooms featuring lots of local, dark wood. But on reflection it is more than that, it is perhaps one of the most striking beach resorts you might visit. It is stripped down five-star perhaps, but it is certainly five-star. Any traveller from Oman will be well used to beautiful beaches, however don’t be complacent. Negombo offers a different perspective on the much-prized view. This small resort is the best place to watch a fleet of traditional single-sailed Paruvas catamarans gliding across the horizon. The colours used to paint this portrait include golden for the sand, bright green for the vegetation that carpets parts of the beach, then that blue sea, conveniently framed by palm trees.

Local women sit patiently on the sands waiting to show you their wares, mostly sarongs with elaborate patterns. They are persistent but their warm smiles are likely to coax a few dollars from your wallet. In all it is the picture postcard scene many aspire to visit. Negombo which faces inland is a much different story, bustling in only the way South Asia can be, but not intimidating to the novice. Outside the strip of hotels, and nearby late night bars, the road is lined with Tuk Tuk drivers eager to show you their home, for a negotiable price of course. In some ways this really is the only way to see Negombo, but be prepared for an adrenalin-fuelled ride as these fearless drivers in their flimsy three-wheels hare breakneck through the streets. Negombo has the faded look of driftwood, as do many of its Catholic churches housed in Little Rome, or its brightly painted Buddhist shrines, but that adds perhaps to the charm.

Wildlife and photo safaris The high street in Negombo is also home to market stalls and shops, the best buys being gemstones, silver jewellery, leather goods and carved masks. Tempting as it is to lie on those beaches, Sri Lanka has much more to offer, especially those in search of wildlife and photo safaris. A 40-minute flight from the capital’s airport to Hambantota International Airport, Sri Lanka’s second and newest airport, puts you just an hour’s drive from the Yala National Park. Here the landscape changes from tropical to almost African with a savanna like appearance. Mudholes, mountains and lagoons interrupt vast scrubland from which a huge variety of wildlife can appear. Tourism is really beginning to grow, evidence of that is Jetwings’ newest hotel, the stunning Jetwing Yala. Equipped with sea views, luxury trappings, four-poster beds, a huge pool, this hotel shines for two reasons, firstly its food; which offers the best in Sri Lankan cuisine, secondly; as a staging post into the national park.

A total change of pace from Negombo’s beaches, this gives you the chance to connect with the Allan Quatermain in you (minus elephant gun of course) and go on adventure. Crocodiles, elephants, buffalo, leopards, boars, pelicans, this list of wildlife that call this massive reserve home goes on and on. Luckily most are not too camera shy either, with the photographer only really challenged to capture images of the Sri Lankan leopard. While there are photo moments everywhere it really is worth putting the lens down for some time and just capturing the scene with your eyes and searing the sites into your memory (latest research shows we retain less of events viewed through a smartphone camera).

Developing more tourist attractions This is a vast wilderness that needs to be breathed in, soaked up and experienced properly, enjoy every bump of the jeep, sink your feet into the unspoiled beach and don’t forget to gasp, and even cynics will, at the site of your first elephant close up and in its natural habitat. You and group will return to your hotel hours later, dusty yes, thirsty perhaps, but talking endlessly and enthusiastically of the things you saw in your day, repeating them in an almost shamanic way to preserve the memory. There are of course other sites in Sri Lanka, Kandy elephant orphanage (plus the Temple of the Tooth Relic) being among the most famous, but one trip to this surprising, humble, smiling nation is not enough. You’ll yearn to return to explore more sites such as the rolling tea plantations, the tea being another of Sri Lanka’s prized exports. Plus the now peaceful North holds the promise of developing tourist attractions, such as Wilpattu National Park or the dolphins of Kalpitiya, but those are for another trip. That all said, with our televisions full of strife and conflict in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe, perhaps Sri Lanka’s biggest draw is the sense of hope a traveller can draw from what it has built, and how fast scars have healed, in just a few years.

Courtesy: Times of Oman.



The spice of life in Sri Lanka by Peter Moss (The West Australian)

Posted on 20 January 2014 by admin

It’s dawn. Freezing rains are howling across the sub-alpine grasses; we struggle from being blown off the rough path. Suddenly, we burst through a wall of mist to a platform. A sign announces “World’s End”, warning of a sheer 800m drop. We are hiking the 10km Horton Plains circuit to Baker’s Falls and World’s End, in the 2000m-high central mountains of Sri Lanka. This is not a common image of tropical Sri Lanka, that Tasmania-sized teardrop island that seems to dangle from India’s tip.After the cessation of 30 years of civil war, Sri Lanka is definitely open for visitors. Most tourist fly into Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and either head for the beach resorts on the south-west coast or follow a well- travelled circuit through the north and hilly central area. We were keen to see the exotic island at our leisure, so hired a driver/guide. Our starting point is Negombo, a dusty seaside resort 20km north of the capital. Think modest hotels spilling on to the beach, fleets of fishing boats sailing out of an orange sunset and mobs of friendly kids.

Heading north through small towns and lush vegetation, the first stop is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage reserve. It’s a good spot to get up close to cute pachyderms as they frolic in the river. Then, a long drive north through increasingly dry and arid terrain takes us to the cultural triangle of 2000-year-old World Heritage sites.

Continue north; you come to Jaffna and the shattered Tamil territory. The Buddhist monastic complex of Anuradhapura sits on a dusty plain, our eyes drawn to towering brick stupas, temple walls, pools and sacred shrines. At the Maha Vihara temple, white- robed devotees sit around the bodhi tree, grown from the tree where Buddha gained enlightenment.

Several hours drive away, surrounded by a huge man-made lake, Polonnaruwa was the site of 1000-year-old Sinhalese and Indian kingdoms. The excellent museum and guide help to make sense of the remains of the seven-storey Royal Palace, surrounded by gardens and pools, and the Quadrangle, filled with temples and carved statures of Buddha. Sigiriya a fifth century royal fortress built on top of a 300m-high rock, sticks out of the flat countryside like a sore thumb. The two-hour hike to the top, past exquisitely laid out gardens and ponds and vibrant frescoes, is very demanding but the panoramic view at the top is worth it. With your head buzzing with history, turn south into those green hills.

The winding road cuts through lush jungle. Signs warn of elephants crossing, while troops of monkeys bursting through the trees remind you it is still wilderness. Not all of it – it’s also a major spice growing area. Exuberant plantations beckon the visitor to see how pepper, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom are grown. We are lured into buying packets of fresh spices to enhance our curries and some herbal oils to ease our aches and pains.

Kandy sits around a large lake, surrounded by high hills, in the centre of Sri Lanka. It was the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom until the British realised the cool air would make a great escape from Colombo’s heat and captured it in 1815. It’s still very popular with local tourists. Our five-star Cinnamon Citadel Hotel has stunning views over the hills and Mahaweli River, a tasteful bedroom and a breakfast buffet to die for.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a huge white complex built on the lake, which houses Buddha’s Tooth in a golden casket. Long lines of the faithful shuffled past just for a glimpse of it, the halls buzzing with their prayers. In July, the tooth is honoured by the 10-day long Esala Perahera; processions of elephants and Kandyan dancers. And don’t miss those Kandy Dancers, exotic tumblers, wild dancers and thrilling drummers who perform at several venues in Kandy.

South of Kandy, the misty hill-station of Nuwara Eliya is set in a sea of tea plantations, with British names such as Glenloch and Mackwoods. The town used to be the watering hole for tea planters. You can almost hear the tinkle of gin and tonic as chaps in white wield the willow. Now, their gabled cottages and clubs have been turned into classy hotels and guesthouses. Our St Andrew’s hotel boasts rooms with high ceilings, fireplaces and creaking teak floors, a smoking room with billiard table and a large gloomy dining room. It’s a good base for many interesting hikes, including Horton Plains National Park, an hour away.

At 2243m, Adam’s Peak is Sri Lanka’s highest, best accessed by car. Be prepared for a 2am start, hundreds of steps and hordes of pilgrims; the view from the top will take what’s left of your breath away. For a relaxing three-hour trip through hilly tea plantations, take the train to Ella, another fabulous hill town. Our Zion View Guest House clings to a ridge overlooking Ella Gap and blue-tinged hills; a great place to enjoy home-cooked chicken curry and an invigorating Ayurveda massage. Nearby, Little Adam’s Peak is an easy three-hour ramble, as well as many other hikes. The little town is a backpacker haven, offering coffee, cakes, muesli, wraps, smoothies, curd and kotthu rotti (grilled chopped vegies) and hoppers (a thin stuffed pancake)

It’s a 1000m drop from the cool of Ella to the hot, dry plains and Sri Lanka’s other big drawcards – the Udawalawe and Yala national parks – reputed to be teeming with animals. As our four-wheel- drive bounces us around the dusty tracks, we see plenty of wild elephant, buffalo and deer but the star attractions, leopard and sloth bear, must be having the day off.

It’s a half-day’s drive from Yala along the south coast to Galle. Walled Galle is a tiny gem perched on the island’s tip; centuries of Portuguese, Dutch, British and Sri Lankan history crammed into a half a square kilometre, with churches, mosques, quaint stone houses, colonial buildings and boutique hotels all clustered along the narrow, cobbled streets.

Our stylish hotel, Coco Bay Resort, is nearby at Unawatuna, Sri Lanka’s latest sun-lovers’ beach destination. Not ours – we are put off by dubious plastic floating in the sea. This doesn’t spoil our tastebuds from being tantalised by fresh fish grilled under rustling coconut trees and an orange sunset.

Colombo is 1 1/2 hours away by the new motorway or half a day by the old coast road via the old hippy beach hangouts of Bentota and Hikkaduwa. They’re a bit run-down now. The whole of Sri Lanka’s south coast bore the full impact of the devastating tsunami in 2004, with a loss of 30,000 lives. Vine-covered ruined houses, flattened coconut plantations and clusters of graves with photos of loved ones are a heart-rending reminder.

Approaching the capital’s urban sprawl, eyes are drawn to the usual trappings of big Asian cities; frantic tuktuk drivers risking life in the chaotic traffic, skyscrapers and shiny hotels poking their heads up among run-down houses and shops and a kaleidoscope of women in brightly coloured saris, men wearing white dhotis and veiled Muslim women. Galle Street runs from the old Fort, near the old areas of Pettah and Slave Island, past white-painted government buildings and spruced-up museums in leafy parks. Colombo deserves several days to explore; a fitting place to end your tour of Sri Lanka.


There are no direct flights from Perth to Sri Lanka, but you can connect through Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

Group tour companies operate, but hiring a car with driver/guide is a good option. We chose exoticlankaholidays.com.au.

Visit central/southern beaches from December to March and the north/east in May to September to avoid monsoons. Accommodation ranges from backpacker ($30) to mid-range ($50) and top-end ($120+), with tasty, spicy food ranging from $10-$30 meal

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SRI LANKA the emerald isle… from a tourists point of view

Posted on 09 May 2013 by admin

Heavenly Sri Lanka: Rocks, sands and herds of fun

Sri Lanka is working to cast off the dark shadows of the civil war that blighted it for decades .Nowhere is that more apparent than in its largest city – Colombo.

The Old Dutch Hospital is one of Colombo's oldest sites but became a no-go area after it was damaged in an attack in 1996. Today it is one of the brightest venues in the city. Built in 1677, the colonial complex has been rejuvenated and now bustles with a collection of shops and restaurants, including the Ministry of Crab, a joyous celebration of seafood. Tuck into fiery pepper crab, even fiercer chilli crab with pol sambol, coconut ground on a traditional "mirisgala" stone, and tasty clay pot prawn curry served with wood-fired kade bread.

A stroll along Galle Face Green will soon work off the calories. This Indian Ocean promenade is a popular meeting place.

The breeze is warm and the cannons facing sternly out to sea are a reminder of Colombo's colonial past. Finish the evening by sampling the island's spirit Arak (Marco Polo was a 13th-century fan) at the stylish Kingsbury Hotel. The impressive bar was imported from Ireland.

Sitting amid lush mountains, the Royal City of Kandy is home to one of Buddhism's holiest shrines. Here is kept the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha, taken from his funeral pyre.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth the sound of drumming and chanting fills the evening air, heady with incense.

Pilgrims are lost in prayer amid statues of the Buddha and elaborate paintings depicting the story of the relic and its arrival on these island shores, smuggled there in the hair of a princess.

I am allowed inside the inner sanctum, a rare privilege. Seven shining golden caskets adorned with precious gemstones encase the relic. A stunning golden canopy sits over the shrine, while monks stand in silent attendance.

Whatever your beliefs, you could never doubt this is a place of immense spirituality.

Get a bird's eye view of this green and oh-so pleasant land with an exhilarating air taxi ride.

Sri Lanka's beauty unfolds on a 45-minute chartered seaplane flight from Dambulla to Koggala. The small, twin-engined plane ploughs its way across the water before climbing into the air. A lazy audience of cattle, half-immersed in water as they try to counter the fierce midday heat, are suitably uninterested by our take-off.

Below us, lush mountains topped with temples and giant statues of the Buddha give way to the well-manicured tea plantations and bungalows of Little England.

This is a thrilling way to see the country; watch the altimeter clock up the ascent, feel the prop engines rev and marvel at the view.

Step on to the streets of Galle Fort, a town surrounded by imposing walls, and take a stride back in time to when empires were forged.

The Portuguese and the Dutch were here before the British. The Dutch influence is still around every corner, no more so than in the striking Reformed Church.

Take a stroll along the ramparts of this Unesco World Heritage site, 17th-century defences so strong they kept back the devastating tsunami of 2004.

Today the laughter of families rises towards the lighthouse from the small beach below.

Galle Fort, with its colonial villas, has old-world charm. Explore quiet side streets and intimate shops offering fine jewellery and artwork.

Tea taken on the veranda of the elegant Amangalla hotel is another step back in time. Known during British rule as the New Oriental, empire-builders seeking their fortune passed through its Great Hall. Today it caters for travellers seeking rest and relaxation.

Get up close to the elephants of Pinnawala but be careful, a swish of an ear can give you a playful slap around your own ears.

Elephants have a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankans. This 24-acre refuge was set up in the Seventies to care for orphaned or abandoned animals.

Large crowds gather by the river to see the herd relax in the cooling waters and young and old are equally entranced. There are about 70 elephants here, the youngest just weeks old.

Find a good spot on the cool terrace of the café overlooking the river. Try king coconut; islanders swear by it as a health drink.

The sheer size and scale of the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya will take your breath away. So too will the trek to the top of this mystical, ancient edifice.

Stroll through the remains of pleasure gardens and water features engineered in the 5th century. Then climb, slowly and surely, over well-worn steps that ascend the huge monolith.

Along the way there are frescoes of bare-breasted damsels to admire and a pair of giant lion paws, part of the original entrance. The verdant jungle stretches out below.

Sigiriya rose to prominence after a struggle between two royal brothers which saw one, Kashyapa, kill his father. Fearful of the consequences, he built his capital atop the 650ft sheer rock.

The water features were an attempt to soothe his anxious mind in his remote perch. He came to a nasty end and there is a feeling of sadness in this remote, strange, and yet beautiful place.

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Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board participates in Chinese Travel mart

Posted on 19 November 2012 by admin


Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), along with 14 Local Travel Agent Companies and Sri Lankan Airlines, successfully participated at the China International Travel Mart 2012 (CITM 2012); the biggest Travel Mart in China.

Having kicked off recently, the CITM 2012 was held at Shanghai New International Expo Centre, providing a precious opportunity for the Sri Lankan Travel Agents to meet their counterparts in China.

With the basic view to create awareness about the peaceful conditions in Sri Lanka after the end of the war, Consumer Days were held on November 17-18 and steps were taken to introduce a number of latest products related to the market of China. Since a number of media personnel participated, SLTPB also got an excellent opportunity to obtain a very good media exposure to market its product to the travellers worldwide.

With the ambition of holding business meetings with over 40 tour operators, SLTPB plans to organize a road show at Hangzhou city in Shanghai.

Representing Sri Lanka at CITM 2012, Ranjith Uyangoda, Sri Lankan Ambassador to China, Vimal K. Arulampalam, Minister Councillor and Madubhani Perera, Acting Director, Marketing of SLTPB, participated at the event.

China has been identified as an emerging market in the field of tourism. During the past decade, a rapid growth of Chinese travellers has been witnessed all over the world. Having foreseen this phenomenon, Under the guidance of the Ministry Of Economic Development, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has initiated a number of promotional programmes to attract potential Chinese Tourists to Sri Lanka. Thus, during the past few years, the Tourism sector of the island, in fact, experienced a lot of positive outcomes. Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

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‘Jetliner Sunset Cruise’ tickets priced at Rs.3900 per adult

Posted on 09 July 2012 by admin

Sunset Cruise: Party onboard

‘Jetliner Sunset Cruise’, the latest addition to Colombo’s entertainment industry, has set sailed its second voyager, last Sunday.
‘Jetliner’, Sri Lanka’s only cruise ship operated by the Navy in and around Colombo Port, has now opened its doors to all Sri Lankans with their monthly party on aboard package.

This premier ocean entertainment ship will drops its anchor for their July voyager on Saturday, 21 July.�‘This will be a monthly affair. We will be organizing this sunset cruise on a Saturday on a monthly basis so that families, groups or even an individual can join the evening floating fun for a nominal package’ said Captain Anura Danapala, the skipper of the cruise.

This package includes the sunset cruise setting at 5.00 pm, a buffet dinner, DJ music for entertainment, magic shows, face painting and cartoon movies for children and the Dreamron professional fashion show.

Jetliner Queen of the month and best dancing couple are some of the attraction of the cruise.�The cruise tickets are priced at Rs.3900/= for adults and Rs.2, 000/= for children (between the age of 3 to 12 years).
Jetliner ship starts its sunset cruise at 5.00 pm and returns to the harbour after 1 � hours of cruising. Music and other entertainment will continue while sailing and the dinner by Siam House will be served after it enters the harbour around 7.30pm.

Captain Danapala of Sri Lanka Navy is the Project Manager for Jetliner Nautical Enterprise, the authority of the Jetliner cruise ship.
The ‘Jetliner’ is a water jet driven fast passenger ferry, which has been designed to accommodate 600 passengers and 160 cars at a time.
Amenities available on board will include a banquet area for 250 guests, mini conference facilities for 50 participants and ballroom facilities for 100 guests with exclusive bar facilities. There is an observation salon that can accommodate 50 guests and a deck area which has the capacity for 250 guests.

It is being used for corporate and private functions, weddings and other social events organized by private parties. It was a closed door to the ordinary folk and our new ‘sunset cruise’ can be enjoyed by anybody, who like to have a fun filled entertainment during a weekend. It will be like visiting a hotel or resort for dinner, but with a new experience; Captain explained.
‘Simply anybody can buy a ticket and join the fun. This is a rare opportunity as Jetliner is the only ship where the public are given the opportunity to witness the sunset, amidst song and dance.’ he added.

Apart from this evening package, the Jetliner Ship can be booked for various functions. Jetliner Night Package, Corporate ‘Sunset Cruise’ Package, Jetliner Touching Negombo Package, Jetliner Cruise to Bentota Package and Day out to Galle Package are some of the popular packages for private functions. The price per package ranges from Rs 300,000/=� to Rs 2,522,490/=.
The Jetliner was one of Sri Lanka Navy’s largest passenger craft served the North and East as a life line during the war till May 2009.
‘The ‘Jetliner’ could be hired on a hourly or daily basis and for weekend cruises by individuals, tour operators and corporate clients. Tailor-made packages could be arranged to suit the needs of clients’ Captain Danapala emphasized

For more details contact 0718622622, 0777304182 or�visit the website jetliner.navy.lk

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