Sri Lanka Tourism targets 80% of last year’s arrival figures | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Tourism targets 80% of last year’s arrival figures

Sri Lanka Tourism is exploring the possibility of inviting global celebrities for a mega event to be held in Colombo shortly to promote the destination as a safe place, a top official of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) told journalists last week at the launch of a special tourism campaign targetting the Indian market.

SLTBP Chairman Kishu Gomes said there has been a request from the industry to hold such an event in Colombo to send out a clear message to the world that Sri Lanka is a safe place to visit. We will consider organising such an event which is appropriate at a time when the destination has to be marketed vigorously. “The event is still at discussion stage,” Gomes said.

Tourist arrivals in May had dropped by around 70 percent following the Easter Sunday attacks, SLTB data reveals. According to SLTB officials, the number of arrivals has been growing since this month recording around 2,200 visitors per day. The number of arrivals in May was around 1,300 per day. Around 1,900 had visited the country on Tuesday.

“Our target is to achieve at least 20 percent less than last year’s arrival figures. We are working on this with an ambitious program to come close to last year’s target,” the SLTB chief said, adding that the Promotion Bureau has embarked on an aggressive campaign along with the promotional campaign to tap the Indian market which will kick-off this month.

Industry experts said India being a huge market with over 1.2 billion people, Sri Lanka Tourism stands to benefit immensely from a growing market. India has been predominantly a MICE sector market contributing a major share to the numbers and revenue generated by the sector.

However, it was also noted that the different views expressed by policy makers on the current security situation in the country does not augur well for the industry as it conveys a mixed signal to the global travelling community.

It was stated that there has to be one voice with greater clarity on the actual state of security in the country.

“The visit of the Indian Premier sends out a positive message that Sri Lanka is safe place to travel to. We have lined up a series of promotional events that are not covered by the campaign for the Indian market. We are looking at all key markets in Europe and China. India is a key market next to China contributing a large share to the country’s foreign exchange earnings,” Gomes said.

“India is our neighbour and the number one source market for Sri Lanka. Its economy grew by eight percent in 2018. Around 424,000 Indians visited Sri Lanka last year,” a SLTPB official said. According to statistics, India is Sri Lanka’s largest tourism market accounting for 18.2 percent or 424,887 arrivals, up 10.5 percent from a year earlier. The number of arrivals from India last year was 383,000.

According to SLTPB sources, about 10 countries have softened their travel advisories which send a strong message to the travelling fraternity.

“We are working with foreign missions to lift all the advisories soon, to position the country again on the global travel map,” the SLTB chief said.

Belgium, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, US, UK and Germany are some of the countries that have relaxed travel advisories.

However, according to a Sri Lanka Tourism official, the number of arrivals this year is predicted to fall short of last year’s arrivals of 2.3 million. The industry ended last year with 2.33 million visitors, up by 10.3 percent over 2017. The promotional campaign for India comprises five attractive and affordable tour packages to Sri Lanka targeted at the Indian tourist range from a combination of stays in Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Dambulla, Sigiriya and the South coast with multiple options to suit any budget.

MasterCard which has over 180 million cardholders in India has come on board to promote the packages through its well connected channels. MasterCard Sri Lanka and the Maldives Country Manager Santhosh Kumar has expressed confidence that the cardholders will be a part of the campaign.

The campaign will be implemented by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka and SriLankan Airlines.

The national carrier has over 120 flights per week to key cities in India. SriLankan Airlines plans to target 400,000 transit passengers staying between eight to 20 hours in transit with short-term packages.