SRI Lanka’s southern coastal town of Hambantota is being dressed up as a major MICE centre, second only to Colombo, with a 1,500-seat convention centre and other upcoming facilities set to draw corporate attention, officials said.
“Hambantota will change the landscape for the local MICE market,” said Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau (SLCB) general manager, Vipula Wanigasekara, adding that the promotion of the destination will be executed through the Colombo-based bureau.
Home town of Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the region has seen a remarkable change in infrastructure over the past few years – the country’s second international airport opened in March 2013; the Magampura Ruhunu International Convention Centre last November; new hotels have opened and more are coming up.
Imran Hassan, a MICE specialist, said Hambantota, 250km from Colombo, has tremendous potential and will be a major attraction once the new extension of the southern expressway opens in March. The expressway, which runs from Colombo to Galle, is being extended by another 35km to Matara, some 90km away.
SLCB’s Wanigasekara said the bureau is in talks with PCO/PEOs to shift some events to Hambantota.
“I am talking to many organisations to showcase Hambantota for their annual events,” he said, adding that staging the Asian Youth Games in 2017 in Hambantota will enhance the city as a venue for international events.
“We are building an indoor stadium for the games which will then be converted to an exhibition centre,” he said.
Wanigasekara believes that the 375-key Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort and Spa will enhance the region as a MICE venue. The resort, built close to the convention centre, is due to open next year.
“People are always looking for new venues and this is definitely a good option for a meeting,” he said.
Sri Lanka will play host to some 50 MICE events this year, up from 40 in 2013.