Airlines named ‘Airline of the Year’
received the highest number of awards of any single company at the
Second Annual Presidential Awards for Travel & Tourism, winning three of
the major categories that were presented.
Sri Lanka’s National Carrier won the categories of ‘Airline of the
Year’, ‘Outbound Tour Operator’, and ‘Tourism Education & Training
The Presidential Awards for Travel & Tourism are the country’s highest
annual accolades to organisations and individuals who have excelled in
the development of tourism in Sri Lanka, and whose outstanding
contributions play a significant role in the success of the tourism
industry. It is conducted by the Ministry of Tourism and Sri Lanka
Acting Chairman of SriLankan Airlines, Nishanta Wickremasinghe said:
“SriLankan Airlines has traditionally been a pioneer in many aspects of
the country’s tourism industry, and we are delighted to win these
accolades for our efforts. The National Carrier has always been a pillar
of strength which the entire country relies upon, and this is especially
so of the tourism industry.”
SriLankan was chosen as Airline of the Year for its overall contribution
to the country’s tourism industry. Its leisure arm SriLankan Holidays
won the category of Outbound Tour Operator for its work in making
overseas travel affordable and convenient to Sri Lankan travellers. The
International Aviation Academy, the airline’s training wing, took
honours for its work in providing comprehensive training in various
aspects of civil aviation and tourism.
Manoj Gunawardena, CEO of SriLankan, said: ‘The awards showcase the
strength and the diversity of SriLankan Airlines. SriLankan is not just
an airline, but has diverse businesses in inbound and outbound travel,
airline training, and many more areas.’ Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister,
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, was the Chief Guest at the gala event at the
Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo on
January 26, 2009. The audience included Minister of Tourism, Milinda
Moragoda, Deputy Minister of Tourism Faizer Mustapha, former Deputy
Minister of Tourism, Arjuna Ranatunga, and members of the country’s
Nishanta Wickremasinghe, Acting Chairman, SriLankan Airlines, received
the awards on behalf of the National Carrier.
Sri Lanka’s award-winning carrier brings the largest number of tourists
into Sri Lanka from around the world. It now flies to 41 destinations in
25 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, the Subcontinent, and
the Far East.
SriLankan Holidays promises travellers a ‘World of Memories’ with
all-inclusive package tours in more than 30 cities in South Asia,
Southeast Asia, the Far East, Middle East, and Europe. It has evolved in
recent years to become one of the country’s largest players in both the
inbound and outbound tourism industries.
The International Aviation Academy serves the manpower requirements of
not just SriLankan but airlines, airports, travel agents, and other
aviation industry organizations throughout Asia, with comprehensive
programmes in both technical and soft skills.
Airlines face hard landing in
Airlines are on course for one of their toughest ever years, top
industry association IATA warned on Thursday as the global slump pushes
air cargo into free fall and slashes passenger growth.
“2009 is shaping up to be one of the toughest ever years for
international aviation,” International Air Transport Association
Director General Giovanni Bisignani said.
“The 22.6 percent drop in international cargo traffic in December puts
us in uncharted territory and the bottom is nowhere in sight. Keep your
seatbelts fastened and prepare for a bumpy ride and a hard landing,” he
Figures for 2008 released by IATA showed a 1.6 percent increase in
passenger traffic, “dramatically down” from 7.4 percent growth the
In December alone, international air travel dropped 4.6 percent over the
same month in 2007, propped up only by advance bookings for the holiday
season, IATA said in a statement.
But air freight tumbled by an unprecedented 22.6 percent, as the overall
decline that set in during the final months of last year accelerated.
Over the full year, international cargo traffic fell 4.0 percent,
reversing previous growth, setting the stage for a further slide in air
travel and freight.
IATA forecast a 3.0 percent decline in passenger volumes for 2009 and a
further drop in cargo traffic of 5.0 percent.
The sharpest tumble last month was experienced in the airline industry’s
booming market in recent years, the Asia-Pacific region.
International passenger travel there slumped by 9.7 percent and Asian
air cargo -- nearly half of the global total -- plunged 26 percent.
North American airlines experienced a 4.3 percent drop in demand for
international flights in December, while European carriers experienced a
slower decline of 2.7 percent.
Only the Middle East managed to cling on to slower growth.
But in all instances the dropping demand outstripped attempts by
carriers to cut routes and schedules.
“Airlines are struggling to match capacity with fast falling demand,”
“Until this comes into balance, even the sharp fall in fuel prices
cannot save the industry from drowning in red ink.”
After registering a collective loss of about five billion dollars in
2008, airlines are set to lose another 2.5 billion dollars in 2009,
assuming oil prices average about 60 dollars a barrel, according to the
Analysts at Irish stockbrokers Davy Research said low cost carriers
would continue to gain market share in Europe in the current situation.
“Premium volume is likely to remain under pressure,” they said in a
IATA predicted that the economic crisis will cut 35 billion dollars from
airline revenues this year, leaving them at a total of 501 billion
That prompted Bisignani to renew a call for governments to allow more
cross border or global airline mergers: “We don’t want bail-outs, but we
need to change the ownership rules.”
The slump in international air freight last month again exceeded the
13.9 percent monthly drop recorded after the September 11 attacks in
“The 22.6 percent free-fall in global cargo is unprecedented and
shocking. There is no clearer description of the slowdown in world
trade,” he added.
About 35 percent of the trade in international goods trade is by air,
according to IATA.
The association groups 230 carriers covering more than 90 percent of
scheduled international air traffic, with the exception of exclusively
low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet.
Aitken Spence Travels wins top
Aitken Spence Travels and its fully-owned subsidiary Ace Travels &
Conventions won the awards for the ‘Best Destination Management Company’
and the ‘Best Professional Conference Organisation’ for the second
consecutive year at the Presidential Awards for Travel and Tourism held
on Monday at the BMICH under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Sri
Lanka Ratnasiri Wickramanayake.
The inauguration of the industry’s most prestigious and sort after
awards was held in January 2009.
Apart from walking away with the 2 main awards, Aitken Spence Travels
founder late R. Sivaratnam was recognised with a Tourism Legend award
for his tremendous contribution for the development of tourism in Sri
Gehan M. Perera, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels & Ace
Travels & Conventions attributed this achievement to the incredible team
at Aitken Spence. He noted that the last few years have been very
challenging for tourism in Sri Lanka with tourist arrivals dropping
significantly. However, he asserted that the team at Aitken Spence
Travels & Ace Travels & Conventions had risen to the occasion by opening
up new markets and showing remarkable growth, despite the difficult
“Innovative thinking, dedication, hard work and the relentless pursuit
of excellence have contributed to the success of Aitken Spence,” he
“The management team is thankful to their worldwide tour operator
network which they have built up over the years and the suppliers in Sri
Lanka for the support extended in keeping Sri Lanka’s tourism flag
flying”, he added.
The industry veteran indicated that the best support they could give the
partners in times such as this, is excellent service to the principals
and more business to the hotel partners and suppliers. “This will be
achieved through a process of careful planning, being alert to the
markets and having the right resources”, he added.
“The most important factor for the success of Aitken Spence is the very
strong and experienced management team which undoubtedly is the best in
the industry in Sri Lanka” he asserted.
Perera paid a glowing tribute to his professional team for their
dedication and their commitment to constantly nurture young talent and
empower them. “The management team has led from the front, and has been
a great inspiration not only to our team but also to tour guides,
chauffeur guides and support staff who deliver the high service
standards set by the company”, he stated.
Perera reiterated Aitken Spence‘s commitment to Sri Lanka Tourism and
the readiness of his team to face the challenges ahead to provide even
better service to customers and stronger support to partners and
SriLankan launches Colombo -
Karachi direct flights
SriLankan Airlines is enhancing its service to travellers between
Pakistan and Sri Lanka by launching direct flights between Colombo and
The twice-weekly service on Wednesdays and Sundays is intended for the
convenience of business and trade travellers between the two South Asian
countries. Nearly 20,000 people travel between Sri Lanka and Pakistan
The convenient 3 hours 30 minute flights, which commenced on 18th
January, have replaced the existing service which flies via Mumbai.
Flights on both days depart Colombo at 2:30 p.m. and arrive in Karachi
at 5:50 p.m. The return flights depart Karachi at 6:50 p.m. and arrive
in Colombo at 10:50 p.m( all local times.)
Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city. Being a port city, it is filled with
commercial activity, and is also Pakistan’s most cosmopolitan
metropolis. It is a classic mix of the old and the new, and has a number
of high-end hotels, restaurants offering exotic food and bustling
markets to keep tourists busy. It is a 2-hour flight from Islamabad,
Sri Lanka’s award-winning National Carrier currently has a network of 41
destinations in 25 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, the
Subcontinent, and the Far East. It offers rapid and convenient
connections to East and West through its hub in Colombo.
During their time in Colombo, travellers get to enjoy the excellent
facilities at Bandaranaike International Airport, which has earned a
reputation as the finest airport in South Asia, with its plush new
terminal with aerobridges, comfortable lounges, and of course a
well-stocked duty free shopping complex that is second to none in the
New Chairman appointed for
Tourism Steering Committee
Rajan Asirwatham has been appointed by Milinda Moragoda, Minister of
Tourism as the new Chairman of the Steering Committee that has been
setup to monitor and spearhead the World Bank assisted Tourism Sector
Development & Community Empowerment Project with effect from January
2009. Asirwatham replaces Renton de Alwis who was the first Chairman
appointed for the committee who stepped down for personal reasons.
Asirwatham had been the Chairman, Institute of Taxation; Chairman,
Finance Services Stability Committee – Central Bank of Sri Lanka;
Member, University of Colombo Council; Director, Ceylon Tea Services
Ltd.; Director, Lanka Orix Finance Co. Ltd; Member, Advisory Council –
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Chairman, Bank of Ceylon & PERC previously.
He will be assisted by a team of key officials of the Ministry, Sri
Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau,
Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management, Sri Lanka Convention
Bureau and the private sector representatives from large, medium and
small sectors who are members of the committee appointed by the Minister
at the beginning.
The Minister of Tourism after setting up of the new institutional
infrastructure required by the Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005, has observed
that there is an urgent need for capacity building of the job holders
not only engaged in the four institutions coming under the Ministry but
also in the private sector, specially in the SME’s of tourism. This, he
believed to be a timely need of the industry comprising both the public
and the private sectors to confidently face the new challenges of the
21st century which we have already begun to witness. Being the first
step of this process the Ministry has secured World Bank financial
assistance for a project on ‘institutional capacity building’ where the
fact finding mission has already completed their preliminary phase of
Leisure Group wins six Presidential Awards
The Leisure Group of John Keells Group walked away with an impressive
haul of 6 Presidential Awards for Travel and Tourism at the annual
Presidential Awards ceremony held on Monday, January 26, 2009 at BMICH
under the patronage of Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
The Cinnamon Grand Colombo was adjudged the Best Five Star City Hotel at
this year’s Presidential Awards for Travel and Tourism. General Manager
Rohan Karr accepted this award which was presented in recognition of the
hotel’s continued influence in the hospitality sector. A recognised
market leader, Cinnamon Grand continues to emphasise its image as the
ultimate destination for discerning travellers seeking the pleasures of
“As a three year old brand conceptualised in Sri Lanka, we feel great
pride in receiving this award for the second consecutive year, in lieu
of our indigenous origins, “ said Karr. “Cinnamon Grand is the first
property of Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, the hospitality brand of the John
Keells Group which was launched on November 14, 2005. In the span of
three years, the brand has undergone significant growth and has become a
premier venue in Colombo for business travellers, vacationers and diners
The conglomerate’s Destination Management Companies, Walkers Tours and
Whittalls Travels, won 5 awards of the 6 categories applied for. Nature
Odyssey, the adventure and nature brand of Walkers Tours, won the
Presidential Award for the Best Adventure Tourism Operator. Nature
Odyssey has been instrumental in initiating innovative packages and
experiences for both foreign and local tourists. Their expertise is
focussed on adventure and nature tourism, allowing the world to
experience Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity. They pioneered Whale Watching
in Sri Lanka and are currently carrying out a very successful programme
with the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation.
The Best Charter Airline of the Year was awarded to Condor Airlines, who
collaborate with their local ground handling partner, Walkers Tours, in
promoting Sri Lanka through extensive campaigns. The German airline
owned by Thomas Cook has been operating in Sri Lanka for over 40 years,
in spite of turbulent times, clearly signifying its commitment to Sri
Meanwhile, the coveted award for the Best Chauffeur Guide was bestowed
on Ananda Yatawara of Walkers Tours. Mr. Yatawara has over 33 years of
experience in tourism and has been exclusively with Walkers Tours since
1975 and is definitely an asset to the company and the tourism industry.
Kuoni Travel was the proud winner for the second successive year of the
Presidential Award for the Destination Loyal Partner – Foreign Tour
Operator Category. The award was received by Whittalls Travels, the
Destination Management Company of the John Keells Group who has
represented Kuoni since 1993 in Sri Lanka. Kuoni has been operating to
Sri Lanka since 1967 and is the largest Long Haul Tour Operator
featuring the destination continuously for over 40 years. Kuoni has made
significant contribution to the community by supporting and funding
several CSR projects.
Whittalls Travels recently were runners up in the Kuoni UK 2008 Agent of
the year Award amongst over 50 Destination Management Companies
Adding another feather to their cap, Theekshana Wijesinghe of Whittalls
Travels and Walkers Tours was adjudged Best National Guide Lecturer.
Wijesinghe started his career in tour guiding in 1978 and has over 30
years experience both locally and internationally, working for Whittal
Travels and Walkers Tours. In addition to his sharing his extensive
knowledge on Sri Lanka he has also contributed in exploring new
programmes and innovative excursions.
Head of Leisure Inbound Sector, Vasantha Leelananda commented “We are
pleased with our achievements and this is a clear endorsement of our
excellence in innovating new products and services. As a wholly Sri
Lankan entity, we are fiercely proud of our country, our product and all
our stake holders – employees, suppliers and partners. Our boldness to
venture overseas has also resulted in us pioneering our own travel
operations in India and the Maldives.”
Commenting on the awards, Deputy Chairman John Keells Holdings and
President of the Leisure Group, Ajith Gunewardene said, “We are
delighted with the 6 Presidential Awards we have received. Cinnamon
Grand has once again endorsed its position as the Best Five Star City
Hotel and the Destination Management Companies, Walkers Tours and
Whittalls Travels have won a total of 5 awards”.
announces A380 services to South Korea
has announced that it would begin operating its ultra-modern and
environmentally-friendly A380 aircraft to Seoul’s Incheon International
Airport in November 2009.
The new service is perfectly timed to coincide with ‘Visit Korea Year in
2010’, where the national government and the city of Seoul are joining
forces with the private sector to promote South Korea as a destination
for international tourism.
The new service represents the aviation world’s first A380 operation to
Seoul, as well as Emirates’ first A380 service to North East Asia. It
follows the successful deployment of Emirates’ A380s to New York and
London, and soon-to-be-launched Sydney and Auckland.
Trade between South Korea and the UAE has grown by more than 150% over
the past five years, and is now worth over USD16 billion dollars a year.
Growing economic relations is the result of a series of joint
initiatives including the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and
Ruler of Dubai, to South Korea, and subsequent visits by the Korean
Chamber of Commerce & Industry to the UAE.
The Samsung Corporation is currently completing construction of the
world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which will open later this
year. South Korean exports to the UAE grew by over 50% in the first half
of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. Emirates leading export
goods from South Korea in 2008 were mobile phones headed for Dubai and
the Middle East.
Emirates’ A380 service will also support the South Korean government’s
drive to make Incheon International Airport a major Asian hub.
“Seoul has been an extremely successful market for Emirates since we
introduced services in 2005. In 2004 just 37,000* passengers a year
travelled between Dubai and Seoul where as today it is over 260,000*.
This new aircraft will allow us to further develop this market as well
as encourage more tourism and trade to South Korea,” the Chairman and
Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, H.H Sheikh Ahmed bin
Saeed Al-Maktoum said.
“Incheon International Airport has invested significantly to prepare its
infrastructure for A380 operations and we thank them and our ground
handlers, Swissport, for their hard work to ensure the airport is so
well equipped for our A380,” Sheikh Ahmed added.