Colombo! The perfect blend | Sunday Observer

Colombo! The perfect blend

Indian luxury and celebrity blogger Riaan George has adopted Sri Lanka as his second home; the Island nation inspires him in many ways and be constantly seen at Sri Lanka’s most happening events, places and tourist sites.

Through his blog Urban Eye by Riaan George, he keeps the Sri Lankan flag flying high. During the dark times of the Easter Sunday attacks which destroyed the country’s glory he kept promoting the beauty, lustre and warmth of the country and its people.

He calls himself the unofficial Ambassador for Sri Lanka in India and works tirelessly to promote Lanka with Indian media and give the country all the attention it deserves. During Colombo Fashion Week, he coordinated with the Indian media who cover CFW on a full scale.

In conversation with Youth Observer, Riaan shares about blogging, his love for Lanka and helping his second home get back to its full glory.

Q: Sri Lanka is your second home; how does it inspire you?

I have been coming here for ten years now. I adopted this country as my second home. Sri Lanka inspires me because I am drawn towards the general pace of life there. I love Colombo because, for me, coming from Mumbai, a city of excesses and over-speeding, I find the right balance of city life and a relaxed pace. I also love the fact that everything is much smaller here, the air is clean, the food is good and the design, I must not forget to mention just how refined and evolved the design sensibility is. Plus, I have managed to establish a very supportive social network here. These are a few ways of how Sri Lanka inspires me.

Q: During the unfortunate incident in Sri Lanka, you promoted heavily the country, your comment?

There is a background here. In the past couple of years, I have been working tirelessly to promote Sri Lanka on all digital platforms, to ensure that more Indian luxury travellers come to Sri Lanka. Single handedly; thanks to all my private sector partners in Sri Lanka, I have managed to reposition the country as a cool destination for luxury travellers. I had accompanied many Indian media and bloggers here to enable them to generate content for their audiences. Then the bombs happened! It was the most unfortunate incident. It broke my heart to see my beloved island crippled like this.

After a couple of weeks, I recommenced my efforts to start promoting Sri Lanka again. This time, I had to put in twice the efforts. Thus began a huge campaign, which will carry on over the next couple of months. In association with Celebrate Colombo and Colombo Fashion Week, I hosted five top Indian digital influencers to spread the message that it is safe to travel to Sri Lanka again. The campaign was hugely successful with social media engagement in the millions. Similarly, I worked on a campaign for the Galle region (six days before the attack), in partnership with Nadeem Rajabdeen of Cantaloupe Hotels. We brought down six top Indian bloggers and editors and showcased the south coast and created an itinerary showcasing Sri Lankan only brands. This campaign too, was a huge success and had many Indians booking their travel to the island after this. What was most interesting about this campaign was the fact that it was a blind itinerary - I had sent across air tickets to my influencer guests and asked them to show up. They had no clue about what to expect from Sri Lanka and where they were being taken. Needless to say, the content that they generated from this was outstanding.

Right now my sole mission is to work with Indian content creators and Sri Lankan hospitality brands, to showcase the destination in the right light. To help journalists, bloggers, YouTubers and influencers to get curated experiences and itineraries, to talk about Sri Lanka. I will do everything I can to keep the flag flying high.

Q: How often do you travel to Sri Lanka, one event you don’t miss and why?

I am in Sri Lanka at least once a month. I love Colombo Fashion Week and Christmas in Colombo because I love how the streets are lit up.

Q: Given the option, five things you will want to take from Sri Lanka to Mumbai and why?

If I have to choose five things they would be - the honking-free traffic, the Colombo-Galle expressway, string hoppers, black pork curry and the beautiful Colombo sunsets.

Q: The common factors about Mumbai and Colombo?

Very cosmopolitan and open-minded cities. I love the general casual sense of style in both cities. I can go to a restaurant in shorts and not have to worry about anyone judging me. As I said before, Colombo, for me, is a perfect blend of city and slow life.

Q: If you are chosen as Indian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, what will be your action plan for Sri Lanka be?

So many things actually - work on better flight connectivity between the two countries in terms of increased flight options so that fares are regulated. Right now, they are so unreasonably expensive. I would also ensure that there is much more promotion of Sri Lanka to the right Indian tourists. I would like more Indian media and bloggers to come to Sri Lanka and get them to push out more content about the cool things that one can do here. Take for example Thailand and Switzerland, they have managed to capture the Indian tourist market so well.

And before I forget, I would recommend relaxing the driving license rules as well. The process for a foreigner (especially Indian travellers) to drive in Sri Lanka needs to be easier, like in most other countries. Currently, it is a very long and bureaucratic process to be able to self-drive as a tourist in Sri Lanka.

Q: Five things the world should know about Sri Lanka and why?

It is safe to visit. The beaches are magnificent. The food is fabulous. Come here for the design, Sri Lankan design is outstanding. Sri Lanka is much more than temples and elephants.

Q: Blogging is a media platform, how responsible should a blogger be?

A blogger has to be responsible and know what he or she is talking about because many people can be influenced.

While there is the inevitable element of promoting products and brands, because that’s what pays your bills, you still need to be honest and find a niche and stick to it.