Excel: The Ministry of Tourism will take over the idling Hambantota Convention Centre and convert it to a major active conference and event hosting venue, disclosed Minister of Lands and Tourism Harin Fernando. A hotel school too would be set up to accommodate around 400 students in this convention centre which will be a major feeder of youth for the growing human resources crisis in the hospitality sector.
In an exclusive interview with Daily News Business after the opening ceremony of the Sri Lanka Tourism Stand he said that this would be the epicentre of the proposed Yala Tourism Hub program which will be initiated soon under a directive of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Minister said that under the program upmarket hotels too would be invited to build hotels in the deep south area moving up to the Embilipitiya area.
The convention project started in 2006 with Korean aid with an objective of ‘promoting balanced and comprehensive regional development through this Centre in Hambantota’ and has direct access to the southern expressway between Colombo and the other regions. It also hosted the CHOGM youth conference. The Centre has a seating capacity of over 1,500, a banquet hall , adequate parking for nearly 1,000 vehicles, grand lobby and reception area, dining facilities, majestic kitchen, cafeteria and business and administration centre. The site area covers 112,030. sq.m. (27.67 Acre) with a building coverage of 8,081. sq.m. The entire auditorium building under phase 1 is funded by the Government of Korea as a donation.
Meanwhile, Chairman Sri Lanka convention bureau Thisum Jayasuriya said that they are moving towards converting this convention centre into a major international ‘happening’ place for conferences. He said that Sri Lanka does not have many venues for conferences and with the southern highway, the Mattala airport and with cruise ships coming from the Hambantota harbour, this convention centre will be a major revenue generator in the future. He also said that when there are conferences happening the hotel school students will also be able to get on the job training.
Jayasuriya also disclosed that Sri Lanka tourism has also been entrusted with developing the Ranminithenna tele cinema village which is also almost abandoned. “We are expecting Cabinet approval for this very soon.”
He said that MICE along with film tourism can be a major revenue generator for Sri Lanka in the future and they are working towards this. Currently MICE tourism accounts to around 12% of the arrivals and about 8% of the tourism revenue.
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