It's not hard to see why tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka has continued to rise over the years despite the destination's serious setbacks and strife. In the last five years, it has seen impressive growth rates of more than 22% year on year, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
The island nation's capital city of Colombo is set to welcome exponential growth in its luxury hotel sector with the arrival of international brands such as Park Inn by Radisson, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Hyatt and Four Seasons.
While these new developments promise to elevate the standards of luxury, planners are increasingly tasked to create experiences that go beyond mere traditional pampering. Authentic destination experiences that connect delegates with hard-to-find local 'experts' on the ground are important elements for incentives.
For instance, consider partnering with Khiri Travel Sri Lanka, which now offers six new destination experiences that aim to help guests engage with facets of Sri Lanka society such as archaeology, food, history, the differences between Tamil and Sinhalese culture through the help of local personalities.
Delegates can meet local personalities such as an archaeologist, a Colombo street food expert, a Tamil native of Jaffna who has lived through civil war, a keeper of a garrison cemetery (with many tales to tell), an art scene expert in Colombo, and a leading Sri Lankan-Japanese chef, who will prepare a private dinner.
The meetings and trips can range from a few hours to half a day or a full-day experience, and can be added in to any Khiri Travel itinerary depending on the interests of the client, shared Gonzalo Gil Lavedra, general manager, Khiri Travel Sri Lanka.
For instance, archaeologist Nerina will bring delegates to two sites in the Cultural Triangle that few tourists visit: Kaludiya Pokuna and Ritigala, which is an ancient meditation site surrounded by forest and used as a mediation retreat by monks for over 2,000 years. Even today, the calm is uninterrupted with virtually no tourists. Gil Lavedra says visiting the area is evocative of an "Indiana Jones experience".
In the capital, Khiri guests can meet Rashan, a life-long Colombo resident from a modest background. Rashan will lead a guided walk through the back streets of the city to reveal vibrant areas such as Pettah market, Slave Island and possibly a pooja ceremony at a Hindu temple. For many, a highlight is sampling kottu roti, a local favourite street dish.
"To fully appreciate the subtleties of a destination Khiri Travel Sri Lanka believes in getting to close to people," says Lavedra. "Each of our special hosts has the spirit of Sri Lanka within them. Khiri guests tell us it's their privilege to walk and talk with such insightful guides."