‘SLAITO Youth’ to infuse fresh thinking into tourism industry | Sunday Observer

‘SLAITO Youth’ to infuse fresh thinking into tourism industry

28 June, 2020
Maxime Wickremasinghe
Maxime Wickremasinghe

The Covid-19 outbreak has given Sri Lanka the opportunity to rethink its strategy to woo international tourists as the country opens for visitors from August 1.

In an organised event in line with healthcare guidelines, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) embarked on a journey at the Ramada Hotel recently to bridge the gap between traditional travellers and the emerging young traveller market.

‘SLAITO Youth’ was launched in Colombo to infuse young blood to ‘rethink and restructure’ the industry by using changing trends and social media to attract more visitors.SLAITO Youth will explore the possibility of improving the tourism industry through industry-wide initiatives to reduce the use of single-use plastics and reducing tourism’s impact on wildlife parks, coral reefs and the environment.

The organisation will be headed by Maxime Wickremasinghe who told Sunday Observer Business that the 35-member organisation will use social media to reach out to potential post-Covid-19 travellers.“As members of the travel industry, we have a reservoir of information about Sri Lanka that has not been tapped into. We plan to use this platform to highlight these areas,” Wickremasinghe said.His objective, therefore, is to use the know-how of the older tourism generation to reshape the thinking of the next generation.

“We have observed that this know-how is restricted to individual companies. We plan to hold webinars and other activities to invite senior tourism practitioners to share their expertise with novices,” he said. SLAITO Youth will also work to make the tourism industry sustainable by engaging communities in the business that brings in a large part of the country’s foreign exchange.

In 2018, tourism, the third largest foreign exchange earner generated USD 4.38 billion and in the following year revenue dropped to USD 3.61 billion due to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. The industry was recovering before the outbreak of Covid-19. Former Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona said, “The world market, in my view, is no longer the middle-class or the rich market. It is more of the younger generation.”

He stressed the importance of marketing Sri Lanka in a novel way. “Because the world is not going to wait for us. The tourism industry will improve after Covid-19 and it will direct itself to places which offer other options to tourists,” he said, adding that there are many more challenges than Covid-19 that Sri Lanka as a tourism destination will have to face.

“What have we not done properly?” he said.

 He said the country has to ‘expand the menu’ that is offered to visitors from the traditional beaches or the tea estates to recreational activities such as kite surfing, trekking, kayaking and diving.

He said tourism was an important industry for the economy and the future of Sri Lanka. “We need to make it a success despite the challenges,” he added.

Through the launch of SLAITO Youth, its mother association hopes to offer the youth wing the opportunity to offer a fresh perspective on how Sri Lanka takes the industry forward.