By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Resisting the challenges posed by the covid-19 pandemic, luxury passenger ships are back on the waters. As the cruise liner season kicks off in Sri Lanka, tourism looks at how the industry is innovating to stay on an even enthusiasm.
The new gateway to Sri Lanka the Hambantota International Port is bow attracting cruise ships by the dozen.
Several cruise liners flying foreign flags have already confirmed that they will call on the new port in the coming two years (2023-2025).
Since the end of last year cruise liners are continuing calling at the Colombo Port and the wave has turned towards the newly constructed port in the South as well.
Two cruise ships, MS Europa 2 and MS Azamara Quest visited Hambantota International Port (HIP) on Tuesday (9th).
More than 900 passengers disembarked to visit popular tourist destinations in the South. Amongst the sights were the Yala National Park, Udawalawe National Park, Bundala National Park, Kataragama Devalaya and the Mulkirigala Temple.
The visitors also had the opportunity to take a tour of the city of Hambantota and visited Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa.
“We are happy to welcome these two cruise ships back. Azamara Quest visited us in December last year and Europa 2 called at the port in 2019.
We are pleased to note that we are entering the cruise ship circuit and this would mean more vessels calling at the Hambantota International Port this year.
The facilities for passengers and crew have been upgraded with duty-free shopping also available within the port premises.
Hambantota International Port which is situated in a lush green environment, has been recognized as one of the cleanest ports in the world.” says Tissa Wickramasinghe, COO, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG).
Seventeen cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka this year with Queen Mary 2, one of the largest and popular ships, Colombo’s harbor master said, as the island nation is looking for alternative avenues to boost its faltered tourism sector.
The new wave if cruise tourism is expected to bring thousands of high end tourists with higher spending capacity after two years. The island nation saw a record high 54 ships in 2019, rising from the previous year’s 42, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Colombo Port Harbor Master said.
“The 2019 was one of the best years and in 2020 there were more than 60 scheduled vessels to call but with COVID pandemic all hell broke loose”, he claimed
Fourteen cruise ships are scheduled to call up in -May this year and another three arriving in Colombo in November, when the peak tourism season begins.
Cruise tourism cycle begins in Sri Lanka from October to May with a dip during the monsoon seasons.
“This year more ships could schedule, so far these are the confirmed ones now,” he said.adding that This also generates income for the port and the prices are charged according to the size of the vessel.
Silva said the first medium sized-cruise vessel, 229 meters long, generated about 14,000 dollars for docking in the port for a day.