With Sri Lanka and the Maldives in close proximity to each other, just 50 minutes apart by flight time, tour operators are now seeing greater potential and value in promoting packages combining both countries.
The two markets complement rather than compete with each other, with the Maldives’ strongest asset being its beaches affording privacy while Sri Lanka is favoured as a destination for its diverse cultural attractions and wildlife parks, said Tracy Neureuther, director of Mosaic Tourism Consulting in Germany.
Echoing similar observations of Champika de Silva, cluster director of sales at Anantara Resorts Sri Lanka, said: “During my recent visit to Spain, almost all the tour operators and travel agents I met booked Sri Lanka using the Maldives for the beach stay.”
However, de Silva has yet to see the combo trend pick up for the German, French and Benelux markets to Sri Lanka, possibly “due to price” issues, although a small number of high-end British visitors are already booking Anantara’s Sri Lanka resorts for beach stays at the end of a round-trip destination with the Maldives.
Nevertheless, hoteliers like Sanath Ukwatte, president of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, whose Colombo-based Mount Lavinia Hotels group owns a 75-villa resort in the Maldives, now sees “huge potential in promoting joint packages” of both destinations.
While joint packages form just 10-15 per cent of its business, Maldives-based Coco Collection Hotels & Resorts/Sunland Hotels’ chief commercial officer Andrew Ashmore, likewise, sees a lot of potential in pairing up both destinations.
“(Demand) has grown of late as Sri Lanka is becoming a huge emerging (destination) for Europe. We see interest from mainly the UK and Germany. Generally it’s six (nights) and four (nights), or five and five, or seven and three,” he shared.
While pairing these two destinations may be a new segment for some players, Nalin Jayasundera, managing director of Aitken Spence Travels which owns the Adaaran chain of resorts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, has been promoting joint tours for some time.
“At one time when there were no direct flights the Maldives, the Chinese used to visit Colombo en route to the Maldives and do combined tours; now there are direct flights to the Maldives,” he said, adding that there is potential to drive joint promotions for the European markets.