By Sanath Nanayakkare
The Presidential Secretariat, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority together with sponsors announced the launch of Galle Concerto 2024 at the Kingsbury Hotel Colombo on Wednesday.
They emphasized that the series of events of the programme would convey to the world that Sri Lanka is not only recovering but re-emerging as a strategically managed top tourist destination, consistent with its social, environmental and macroeconomic goals.
The Concerto, which comprises six segments, held its inaugurating ‘Rhythms of Paradise’ drum festival in Koggala from 12th – 14th January. The ‘Gourmet Galle Food Festival’ is taking place from 12th January – 30th March. The Classical Music Event will take place in Tangalle through 19th-21st January. Meanwhile, the Southern Book Fair will be held in Galle from 19th – 28th January, while the Galle Literary Festival will take place from January 25-28, followed by the Matara Festival from February 1-4.
“It will be the largest promotion of Sri Lanka’s music, culture, art and food ever undertaken, reaching out to a global audience, marketed throughout South Asia and the world. Galle Concerto will help make the southern belt of Sri Lanka to become one of the most visited destination in the world with the right audience”, Chalaka Gajabahu – chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said.
The handbook launched along with the official announcement is set against the backdrop of the rich heritage of the country’s tourism ecosystem and vibrant coastal charm in the Southern Province.
Notably, the event will bring together a diverse array of writers, poets, intellectuals, literary enthusiasts, musicians, artists and celebrity chefs from around the world, who have the power to influence more travellers to visit Sri Lanka.
The Galle Concerto 2024 is launched under the auspices of President Ranil Wickremesinghe with the support of the office of the Presidential Envoy, Niranjan Deva Aditya.
Delivering the keynote speech at the event, Niranjan Deva Aditya said,” Four years ago, this country was shut down due to Covid 19 travel restrictions and people were forced to stay home unable to interact face-to-face for meaningful work like this. And two years ago, we had Aragalaya, riots, power-cuts and various shortages. I don’t need to remind you of the trials and tribulations the country of my birth endured over the past four years.
However, in the two ensuing years, we have all come together to work in unison to create an extraordinary celebration of Sri Lanka’s ancient history, culture, music, food, art and so on which are unique in the world with the objective of putting Sri Lanka back on the world tourism map in a much more dynamic way. I personally know the uniqueness of Sri Lanka. I have legislated for a number of countries over the past 20 years, and therefore, I can tell you Sri Lanka is the best.”
“Having gone through the two crises, we have been able to resurrect and revive our global identity and stand within a short span of two years and showcase our cultural diversity to the world. Today we are working together under the auspices of a man who inspired us for progressive possibilities. Nine months ago, he said we should call the largest event Sri Lanka ever had to show that we are back on the world stage.
Everybody right around him bought into his vision and many unsung heroes have worked thousands of hours to put together this extraordinary event without being paid, without any salaries because they believe in the great potential of this country. If we continue to nurture this progressive and collaborative attitude, I can assure you that Sri Lanka will have a great and secure future,” he said.
Tracy Holisnger -Galle Literary Festival- Gourmet Galle said,” Gourmet Galle will be a 12 week-long gourmet festival up and down the southern coast of Sri Lanka. A partner to the incredibly successful Galle Literary Festival, Gourmet Galle will feature dinners, afternoon tea and master classes with thirteen amazing celebrity and world-renowned chefs along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The dinners will take place in exquisite homes and the finest boutique hotels, carefully curated to make each weekend its own unique and incredible event.”
Edward Robinson – Southern Book Fair, Chanchala Gunewardena – Matara Festival for the Arts, Nilupul Gunawardena – Rhythms of Paradise, Champika De Silva – Opera at the Anantara , and Damitha Nikapota – Gourmet Galle, spoke of their respective segments.
The literary sessions will be held at the Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum. The flagship event will conclude with a concert by internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan artistes.
Sri Lanka’s Tourism earnings for 2023 exceeded $ 2 billion mark with 1.48 million tourist arrivals. The following are some official statistics on tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in 2023 in alphabetical order.
Armenia 2,490, Australia 67,436, Austria 10,594, Bangladesh 17,846, Belarus 10,969, Belgium 10,667, Canada 43,944, China 68,789, Czech Republic 12,056, Denmark 10,346, France 56,251, Germany 102,539, India 302,844, Israel 19,517, Italy 22,242, Japan 19,583, Malaysia 10,940, Maldives 37,328,Netherlands 29,056,Pakistan 10,744, Poland 17,946, Russia 197,498, Spain 23,905, Switzerland 23,556, U.K. 130,088, U.S.A 46,344.