Sri Lankan cricket stars to woo Indian tourists

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lanka’s all-time cricket stars will kick off a campaign in Mumbai Sunday to woo Indian tourists to the island nation during an upcoming Test and one-day series.

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Dileep Mudadeniya, managing director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), said the likes of former caption Arjuna Ranatunga, Arvinda de Silva, incumbent skipper Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara would be accompanying top tourism board officials to Mumbai for the purpose.

“In Mumbai, they will be holding a press conference and a meeting with the key travel agents on Sunday, aiming to attract maximum possible Indian tourists to Sri Lanka during the Indian cricket team tour here beginning next month,” Mudadeniya told IANS.

Ranatunga was upbeat about his India visit.

“Our current visit to India is to invite as much travellers and cricketing fans to come and visit Sri Lanka and explore the country through the platform of cricket,” he said.

According to Mudadeniya, the SLTPB would offer Indian tourists an “individual price-based package” that would include air fare (on Sri Lankan Airlines), sight-seeing, accommodation and local transportation”.

He said that SLTPB expected to draw at least 8,000 Indian cricket fans in July-August when the Sri Lankan and Indian cricket teams play three Test matches and five one-day internationals at Colombo, Galle and Dambulla.

“Since Indian cricket maestro Sachin Tendulker is expected to break West Indian Brian Lara’s Test run record in Sri Lanka, we hope that a lot of Indians would want to witness that grand occasion,” Mudadeniya said.

The first Test is scheduled to begin at the Colombo Sinhalese Sports Club on July 23, while the second one is to be played at the Galle stadium between July 31 and Aug 4.

He said the SLTPB has made arrangements for a five-day “night beach fiesta” on a grand scale to entertain the Indian tourists at the nearby Hikkaduwa beach, a well-known tourist spot for coral reefs.

According to Ranatunga, “exploring the synergy between the destination and cricket, the tourism ministry of Sri Lanka nominated me and my colleague Aravinda De Silva as the ambassadors of Sri Lanka Tourism early this year.

“This connect between tourism and cricket is well in sync with brand Sri Lanka that holistically represents the destination facets,” he added.

On the upcoming India tour of Sri Lanka, Ranatunga said, “we anticipate a positive response, since India is amongst the most passionate cricket loving nations and has ardent fans following the cricketing idols.

“Also, with interest in cricket at an all time high in India post the Indian Premier League (IPL), the upcoming series will offer more action through the clash of the titans (India and Sri Lanka) that is happening after a considerable period of time,” the former captain maintained.

“I am sure that for this series, the hype will be at an all time-high,” Ranatunga added.