Aftermath of terrorist attacks : Top hoteliers confident of recovery | Sunday Observer

Aftermath of terrorist attacks : Top hoteliers confident of recovery

Dileep Mudadeniya
Dileep Mudadeniya

* Hopeful of travel advisories being relaxed

* Industry needs marketing plan

* Sri Lanka has a suicidal human resource strategy - most institutions dominated by expats

The tourism industry should look at a recovery marketing plan, changing risk perception and find cost effective solutions to move forward, Vice President, John Keells, Dileep Mudadeniya said.

“We have a chance in recovering fast as we have entered the lean period at present, provided no further incidents take place,” he said.

Sri Lanka could take a cue from the global measures adopted post crisis to promote tourism, and there are four stages of a macro recovery plan, including setting up of better security measures, investing in destination promotion and providing industry support.

“The incidents had many implications for the hospitality industry. However, as far as we are concerned, there is no lay off of staff. But there will be no recruitment in the short run as well,” he said at a seminar on 4/21 incidents and HR in tourism, organised by Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management in Colombo last week.

“We are looking at a long-term perspective and very optimistic about the future of the industry. We will work out on a strategy to push the recovery process fast forward,” he said.

The incident has a tremendous effect on the country and in particular the tourism industry. We have taken all measures to ensure the well-being of guests and staff and to assure no long term effects.

“We made available counseling to reduce trauma related stress and to bring them back on track with psychologists help. The positive fact is that we conducted a wedding three days after the incident and this gave us courage and motivation to move forward despite the huge set back,” General Manager, Kingsbury Colombo, Christine Chevlaz said.

“The messages of support we received from locals and those abroad were overwhelming, and we are determined to give the guest an unforgettable experience. We are positive and have a plan to reopen the hotel with the same grandeur. We have taken measures to retain our staff and set up a support unit to cross train them to become valuable assets to the hotel. We expect that this effort will improve task handing in our staff which will also benefit the guests immensely,” she said.

Emphasising that we need to exercise vigilance all the time, she said that we have become complacent, and terrorism is a global phenomena that needs attention. However, we assure safety to our guest which has become a huge concern today. “We will make use of this period to train our staff as a matter of priority and will have a strong marketing plan sending an equally strong message that we are back in business,” she said.

“Caring for people is our business and our immediate concern after the incident was the people who were affected. We take every measure to keep the place secure. The affected need time to recover and we are mindful of this,” Vice President and General Manager Shangri-La Hotel, Timothy Wright said.

“We started counseling sessions immediately to try and bring the team together. We seek help from the Art of Living, a spiritual entity in Bangalore and they did a series of sessions with us. They will be back again. A team of our staff is going to Oman this week looking for other opportunities as we are an international group. We are re-deploying people. To this end, it is important to beef up security,” he said.

“The drop of occupancy to 10 percent is a tough situation, but there are several initiatives in place. We have drawn inspiration from the destinations which suffered similar incidents. Loss of revenue is the least concern for us. We are more concerned of the recovery of people, guest and establishment of security in the country,” he said.

“Sri Lanka is a middle income country which entails good as well as bad side to it with many challenges and opportunities. In the effort of a country to achieve economic independence, the tourism industry development will drive the growth. Tourism is the third highest foreign exchange earner and remittances and apparel sector is challenged by countries, such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam. Unless we grow tourism from current level to much higher level together with increase in per capita income up to US $ 10,000, it will be a challenge in future,” Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes said.

“We need to do right things and to this end, there are four factors we need to look at. Technology is the key to gain economic independence. The countries such as the UK, Germany, Japan and China being able to effectively gain success. Towards this we need to have commitment and comprehension,” he said.

It is important to have adequate capital infusion and use land to its maximum. People are a valuable resource and their contribution is essential in socio economic development. However, Sri Lanka has a suicidal human resource strategy where most institutions are dominated by expatriates. Exchange is a good thing, but it should happen in a fair manner, he said.

The export of unskilled labour in the form of house maids and carpenters brings in revenue lesser that what the country is paying for the expatriates. Knowledge and education is key for development. There are a large percentage of brilliant students who do not have opportunities for higher education. More than 18,000 students go out of the country every year and there is US $ 20,000 million or Rs. 68 billion draining out of the country. This is the money we could have better used in the country. We need more investment in the field of education to get out of the suicidal human resources strategy. We should have an education which is branded, current and have commercial value. Demanded knowledge not the outdated stuff should be given to the students. With the right alignment, education should encompass industry dynamics that at present need a change, he said.

As tourism is a global phenomena and needs an industrial strategy elevating skills of younger generation is essential. The system we have needs to gear to support skills necessary and especially communicating and analyzing skills need improvement. We need to rethink regarding attitudes and productivity.

In tourism, what we are going through today is temporarily. Six travel advisories are relaxed so far and this is the correct way to go forward, he said.

The tourism industry recorded continuous growth since 1980 from a small beginning. However, in 2010, the industry saw a marked improvement in tourist arrivals. In managing this situation, we have to go back to our basics and focus more on human resources capacity building, Chairman Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM), Dilip de Silva said.

With the recent incidents, hotel occupancy has plummeted to less than 10 percent and we will have a long painful recovery process. We will need collectively to go forward concentrating on the bottom-line where the industry has secured the third spot in the foreign exchange earnings in the country.

It had plans to become the highest foreign exchange earner by 2025, but with the recent developments, it will not be the case. Are we going to give up? We have the ability and courage to bounce back and we are a resilient nation. One of the positive developments during the last week is three of our key inbound tourist markets such as India, China and UK has relaxed the travel advisories and this will contribute towards up scaling the arrivals, he said.

Sri Lanka will continue with its promotional campaigns as it has embarked on an ambitious campaign to woo tourists. It has not altered any action plan as the country now has an enabling environment. However, some travel advisories are not positive and it is hopeful that they will be relaxed in due course.