Common strategy vital to entice tourists - Tourism Bureau chief | Sunday Observer

Common strategy vital to entice tourists - Tourism Bureau chief

The head table at the media briefing. Pic: Vipula Amarasinghe
The head table at the media briefing. Pic: Vipula Amarasinghe

Tourism industry authorities are confident that their efforts to rebuild the sector will result in the speedy recovery of the sector and will help it to turnaround in less than two years.

“National security has become the most important factor after the Easter Sunday attacks which dealt a big blow to the country’s tourism industry. However, we are confident that the industry will bounce back soon and if the measures that are being taken continued, the industry will be back on track within 13 months. However, there should not be any incidents that will adversely affect the country,” Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Kishu Gomes said in Colombo last week.

While assuring that every measure that needs to be taken for a speedy recovery of the industry is in place, he said that the country is resilient to these types of shocks and the industry will bounce back soon.

“A sizable amount of funds will be used to build the country’s image through a global campaign by a reputed global public relations company. We expect to enhance the value proposition and entice tourists through this. There will be one common integrated strategy with a collective effort by industry stakeholders. We are optimistic that over the next couple of months, the negative trend will reverse. We have a winning plan to deliver results,” he said.

“There are 37 countries which have issued travel advisories and we hope that these could be lifted soon. However, we need to give the international community an assurance of our national security. We are fully convinced that Sri Lanka will have the support of the entire world,” he said.

“We are keen to get back to our former status. Our reputation as the most preferred destination for 2019 by the Lonely Planet should be made good. We will be aggressively involved with our promotional activities which include an amateur golf tournament, a surfing competition, a baseball tournament and the world wildlife conference during the year.

“In terms of travel and tourism events, there have been 35 events, and there will be a similar number in the future as well. There will be 18 more road shows in the future and four have been completed. These measures will ensure the revival of the tourism industry in the mid to long term period,” he said.

There are 1,700 tourists who visit the country daily despite the security concerns. However, we anticipate a 60 percent drop in the number of arrivals compared to last year, he said.

Military Spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said, “The security forces took steps to prevent a possible escalation of attacks, and we can confidently say that we now know the number of terrorists and their routes to prevent any further attacks.

“We have eliminated 70 to 80 percent of the terrorists who were either killed or apprehended. The situation is under control and we have deployed 15,000 soldiers to provide security to key places, including tourists hotels,” he said.

President, The Hotel Association of Sri Lanka, Sanath Ukwatte said, “The attacks are a major blow to the country, the tourism industry, in particular. It also gives a major negative impact and has affected two million people who are dependent on the income generated. The trickle-down effect is far reaching.”

“The overall impact will also adversely affect GDP growth and we need to take quick remedial measures to revive the industry. We seek assistance from the government in terms of funding and concessions on loan facilities to take the industry forward,” he said.

While stressing the importance of ensuring that security measures are in place, Ukwatte said that a crisis response team should be in place for every major hotel.

“We would like the government to seek the support of a professional PR company to handle the recovery process. It is important to have government support to sustain the industry in this difficult period as almost 75 percent of the hotels are under-occupied,” he said.

It had been a tough job to convince travel agents to look at Sri Lanka. The two important aspects of insurance and travel advisories should be viewed to make these favourable to the country. This is vital to overcome the challenges that the tourism industry is faced with, President Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, Harith Perera said. The government needs to assure the safety and security of international travellers. These strategies should be well communicated. “We recommend a serious security audit by a globally reputed security firm to ascertain the situation. We need to have the machinery and a mechanism to promote the country,” he said.

“Public perception regarding national security is vital to build confidence in international travellers and we need to work towards this. With positive response from the international community, the local tourism industry will become a vibrant economic driver in the near future,” Perera said.