September 8, 2020 marked the commencement of the International Trade Fair for Travel & Tourism "Leisure 2020" that is held at the Skolkovo Innovation Center. Although the trade fair annually serves as a major platform for promotion of various tourist destinations, including Sri Lanka, this year, due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the event is mainly focused on promotion of domestic tourism with a number of regions of the Russian Federation being represented at the trade fair.
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Russia was represented at the event by Ms. Chathurika Perera, Second Secretary (Commercial), who visited exhibition stalls and had discussions with officials of the Department of Tourism and Tourism Information Center of Samara Region and tour operators of Kaliningrad region on opportunities for promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination, direct cooperation with local tour operators, and attraction of Sri Lankan tourists to these regions.
Ms. Chathurika Perera also attended a number of highly informative business sessions, where prominent representatives of the Russian tourism industry touched upon important tourism-related issues faced at present.
During the session "Conversation with the leaders: Which tourism do you want to see?" Ms. Zarina Doguzova, Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, highlighted the measures developed by the Russian government for repatriation of Russian nationals amid the COVID-19 pandemic and support of the revival of both domestic and outbound tourism in Russia, while other speakers shared their views on tendencies of further development of tourism. Furthermore, Ms. Alessandra Priante, Director of the Regional Department for Europe at World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), also graced the occasion, briefing the audience about the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector on a global scale.
Another two sessions attended by Ms. Chathurika Perera, Second Secretary (Commercial), -- "Influence Marketing: Manual" and "Experience of promotion of tourist destinations in the new post-COVID reality" -- were respectively focused on peculiarities of organization of promotional trips for bloggers and other key opinion leaders and exchange of experiences of representatives of tourism authorities of various countries on initiatives implemented in the framework of promotion of tourist destinations during the international lockdown.
On the margins of the Leisure 2020 Trade Fair, Ms. Chathurika Perera also met Ms. Kristina Ionitskaya, Honorary Chairperson of the Russian Association of National Tourist Offices' Representatives (ANTOR), and other members of the Association, who invited Ms. Chathurika Perera to participate in ANTOR events in the future.
The Leisure 2020 International Tourism Trade Fair is referred to as a much needed impetus for the recovery of the global tourism sector and re-establishment of direct offline collaboration between tourism organizations on an international level. All speakers of business sessions agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic had become a catalyst for creation of new flexible personalized products for tourists and digitalization of the industry worldwide.