Connecting SME Travel Agents with Northern Province to boost Future Tourism

Exposure Visit to Jaffna & Mannar Districts of Northern Province on 26th, 27th and 28th April 2021

Northern Province of Sri Lanka is a potential destination for future tourism. Understanding the fact that northern tourism can be promoted among the domestic market as well as the foreign  markets,  five  potential  route  maps  were  created  including  the  most  prominent tourism attractions and activities focussing on the rural villages in each district.

Since the tourism industry in Sri Lanka has been very negatively affected by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, 25 SME Travel agents, members of Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs of Tourism agreed on designing and promoting their domestic and foreign tour  packages  focussing  on  the  northern  province.  Among  those  twenty-five  agents,  15

Travel  Agents  visited  the  most  potential  two  districts  of  Northern,  Mannar  and  Jaffna including an island tour from 27th  to 28th  April 2021. The purpose of this exposure visit was to understand the environmental, cultural, and social aspects of Jaffna and Mannar Districts for the preparation of their individual tour packages for the tourists (local & domestic).

The travel agents were officially welcomed to the northern province from Vavuniya at the official lunch organised at Hotel Oviya following all pandemic guidelines and safety measures on 26th  April 2021.

Receiving the team following the appropriate pandemic guidelines at Hotel Oviya, Vavuniya

Sri Lanka is facing the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, all safe and security guidelines  published   by  the  Ministry  of  Health  as  well  as  the  Sri  Lanka  Tourism Development Authority was followed by the hoteliers in Northern Province in receiving and serving the guests.

Travel Agents registering their presence at the entrance….

Organising  committee  ensured  all  pandemic  guidelines  throughout  the  programme  as advised by the Health Authorities.

The agents were provided with the lunch from Hotel Oviya, following all safety protocols….

Travel Agents were provided with Five District Tour Guide Maps from Vavuniya after the lunch to have an idea before visiting the planned destinations.

The  team  was  welcomed  by  North  Gate,  Jetwing  in  Jaffna  which  is  one  of  the  most prominent tourist hotels certified by SLTDA as a safe and secured accommodation provider. Every  travel  agent  was  invited  to  light  the  oil  lamp  symbolizing  the  Sinhala  and  Tamil customs in North.

A travel agent lighting the oil lamp at North Gate by Jetwing in Jaffna….

Travel Agents were given the opportunity to meet leading hoteliers and travel guides in the Northern Province in the evening on 26th  Monday, April 2021 at North Gate by Jetwing. The number of Hoteliers had to be limited due to the maximum sealing of public gathering.

Travel Agents meeting the Jaffna hoteliers at the evening forum…

“As a newly established hotel in Jaffna, it is indeed a great opportunity to meet the travel agents those who have a special interest in promoting northern province” said Mr. Steven from North Village Hotel in Jaffna.

Jaffna Hoteliers shared their brochures and contact cards among the travel agents……

EFECS in collaboration with Northern Province Tourism Bureau trained and certified 24 travel guides in North to promote tourism. Also, nearly 250 hoteliers and restaurants were provided with capacity building programmes in Northern Province in order to streamline the tourism value chain since 2020.

As an initiation, ten hoteliers invited for the meet and interested seven hotels namely The Thinnai, North Gate by Jetwing, Hotel Louisa, J Guest, Hotel Cedar, Village Hotel, AKR Hotel participated for the meet. 9 professional tour guides from Northern also attended this meet in order to facilitate the travel agents.

A Travel Agent, speaking to the tour guides at the meet….

Travel Agents obtained an idea about the hotels and prices from the hoteliers visited the evening forum at North Gate by Jetwing.

A Travel Agent, speaking to a hotelier at the meet….

Hoteliers exchanging ideas about future business opportunities…

Mr. Thillainadesan, Tour Guide professionalised by EFECS in collaboration with Northern Province Tourism Bureau guided the team from the starting point of the journey in Colombo until the ending point within the three days of the exposure visit. He explained all important information about tourist attractions covered during the visit.

Tour Guide providing the morning briefing at North Gate by Jetwing, Jaffna to the participants.

On the second day of the Exposure visit, travel agents visited the Delft Island which is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Jaffna District. The island has the only access by the Indian Ocean by a boat from Kurikadduvan jetty.

A complete briefing about the safety and relevant information on the sea travel was given by the guide and the transport provider at the beginning of the tour.

Travel Agents are getting into the ground tour in the Delft Island…

Travel agents visited the Growing stone which is a living coral could be visible near the Hindu temple and it is being connected to cobra worshiping as per its appearance and the location.  Then,  the  Baobab  Tree,  which  was  brought  by  the  Arabian  traders  to  use  as  a medicine for the horses. It is declared as an Archaeological monument by the department of archaeology.  Also, the Seven Wells Beach, which is the only one beach has the access to swimming and white sand since other area is fully covered by the coral and shells.

The exposure visits of Delft created the opportunity to visit the one and only tourist hotel, Delft Samudra which is located near the jetty. Delft Samudra team welcomed the hoteliers for the lunch.

Table  Decoration  at  Delft  Samudra  with  a bunch  of  local  dates  which  is  a  country  fruit grown in the Delft Island….

The hotel arranged the seating with required  safety distances and  served with  delicious authentic local food.

Travel agents those who are going to promote the northern province to the local and foreign guests, experiencing the authentic foods in Delft.

After visiting the Pigeon cage, which was built by the Dutch during the era when they rule entire Sri Lanka, team was officially welcomed by the Divisional Secretary, Mr. Sathyasothy at his secretariat. Divisional Secretary explained the opportunities available in the island for tourists elaborating the potential places with archaeological and historical importance.

Divisional Secretary of Delft Island, welcoming the team of travel agents….

Divisional  Secretary  has  organised  ten  Small  Scale  Handicraft  Entrepreneurs  from  Delft Island to give a brief idea about the industries available in the island that can be promoted with tourism. Accordingly, the handicraft makers of palmyra, seashells, craftsman, welders, and tailors attended the programme.

Small scale amenity providers in delft island, introducing their products to the travel agents….

Travel Agents expressed their ideas about the island and thanked  the organisers for the given opportunity. The travel agents purchased handicrafts and food items from the small- scale entrepreneurs located near the Divisional Secretariat area as a courtesy.

Travel Agents visited the Delft Dutch Fort which was built by Dutch to ensure their marine security as it is closer to the Indian Ocean. It also was identified as Meehaman fort by the locals as the place was being used by chieftain Meehaman.

Travel Agents exploring the Vediyarasan Fort/Old Stupa which is identified as the old Stupa by the department of Archaeology and the locals are referring that it is a fort which was built by chieftain Vediyarasan who ruled before colonial era.

Tour guide explained the history behind the Delft Horse’s stable where the Horses were being used by the Dutch in the island and the Horse stable also was established by them to facilitate the horses.

Travel Agents gathering information about the attractions from the Tour Guide….

Tour guide illustrating the history using the ruined monuments….

Travel Agents got the opportunity to see the Hanuman Footprint, which is believed that the

Devotee Hanuman has arrived at Delft during his effort to recover Seetha as per the legend.

Although, there are about 700 wild horses available in the island abandoned by the colonist in early 20th century, team explored few of them due to the dry season.

After the evening excursion, travel agents departed from the Delft Island and travelled by sea towards the Kurikadduvan jetty.

Team was unable to visit the Jaffna Library and Fort due to its sudden closure with the pandemic outbreak. After visiting the Jaffna Kingdom ruins, which  was a  kingdom that mentioned  in  the  Sri Lankan  History  since  prehistorical  era  to  colonial  period,  the  team reached their accommodation at North Gate by Jetwing, Jaffna.

After completing the planned locations in Jaffna, Exposure visit was continued to Mannar District on 28th  April 2021. Officers of Northern Province Tourism Bureau escorted the team during their visit to Mannar Island.

Team was first visited the Palavi which is the most iconic holly place in the Mannar since it relates to the Thiruketheshwaram Shiva Temple. The water cutting ceremony takes places in this pond during the annual feast. It is a branch of Malwaththu oya.

Agents getting their feet cleaned at Palavi Pond before entering to the Thiruketheeswaran Temple.

Thirukketheshwaram is an ancient Hindu temple which is also known as one of the Old Shiva temples of Sri Lanka. Travel Agents specialty promoting the Ramayana Trail for the Indian Travellers had a special interest towards this place which is located 8.7Km away from the Mannar town. It is one of the ancient temples which were mentioned in their poems.

Tour Guide is explaining the detailed history about Thiruketheeswaran and the customs have to be followed before entering the sacred shrine……

Due to the climatic concerns, the team was taken to the Historic Mannar Fort on behalf of the Vankalai Lagoon.

Archaeological Officer, explaining the historical importance of the Mannar Fort……

The  Archaeological  Officer  of  Mannar  explained  about  the  fort  providing  additional information from Archaeological perspective considering the importance of promoting the fort among the potential tourists.

Travel Agents self- observing the unique attributes of the site…

Travel Agents had the opportunity to meet 14 SME Hoteliers and Tour Guides in Mannar at the lunch organised at Palmyra House, Mannar. Hoteliers such as Vayu, Palmyra House, Julie Reception, Hotel Agape, Hotel Athie and Hotel Ahash were among them. Seven tour guides including 02 female tour guides professionalised by EFECS in collaboration with the Northern Province Tourism Bureau also attended the programme.

Travel Agents entering the Palmyra House Hotel in Mannar for the Lunch….

Travel Agents connected with the hoteliers and tour guides for the purpose of promoting Mannar Attractions at the programme.

Travel Agents associating with the hoteliers….

“This is a good opportunity for small and medium scale hotels like us to be connected with the travel agents in Colombo, I thank EFECS as well as northern tourism for giving us this opportunity’’ said Mr. Johnstly, Manager of Athie Hotel, Mannar.

Tour Guides exchanging their details with the Travel Agents….

Meeting SME Hoteliers and Guides in Mannar…….

The travel agents were taken to the Thalaimannar Pier which is the north western most point of Sri Lanka which has the linkages with legends of Ramayana and is the observation Point of Adams Bridge.

Team  was  captured  in  a  Group  Photo  remarking  the  end  of  the  exposure  visit  at  the Thalaimannar Pier.

All 25 Travel agents are supposed to develop and submit their own travel packages for the Real North social media campaign to be boosted from 1st  May to 30th  June 2021 to promote Northern Province.