Record year for Sri Lanka Tourism in 2012
One million tourists; earnings top $1 b
Achieving another remarkable milestone in the country’s booming tourism industry, Sri Lanka Tourism welcomed the arrival of 1,000,000th tourist in 2012 at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Sunday night.
Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Bhashwara Gunarathna ,Deputy Chairman Of Airport and Aviation (LTD) Kamal Ratwatte, Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Rumy Jauffer, President of Tourist Hotel Association of Sri Lanka J. Kehelpannala, SLTPB Board Member Nilmin Nanayakkara, Vice President of SLAITO Zerney Packeer and SLTPB Board Member Mervin Fernandopulle with a group of representatives from the travel and tourism industry warmly welcomed the guest Jiang Ying and her husband Yang Bo who arrived in Sri Lanka via flight UL 889 from Beijing at 10 p.m. on 30 December.
Sri Lanka Tourism took steps to arrange a special ceremony to welcome the 1,000,000th guest. The lucky couple from China were given special gifts and their next stay in Sri Lanka will be absolutely free.
Jiang Ying, being the happy visitor to arrive in Sri Lanka as the 1,000,000th tourist for 2012, said “I had heard a lot about Sri Lanka from my friends. I found out more details about your country before deciding on my holiday destination. I was simply bewitched by the photos on the internet. Sri Lanka is as beautiful and breathtaking as presented in the photos. Moreover, Sri Lankans are very hospitable and kind.”
The 950,000th tourist landed in Sri Lanka on 18 December, allowing the tourist industry to rejoice over its success in achieving the set target of 950,000 arrivals for 2012. However, all the previous arrival records in the history of Sri Lanka Tourism were broken with the arrival of the 1,000,000th tourist in Sri Lanka. Compared to the previous year, the present number of tourist arrivals indicates a growth of 17%. The total revenue also surpassed US$ 1 billion.
Under the guidance of the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, a five year strategic development plan has been launched for the tourism sector for the years of 2011-2016, based on the ‘Mahinda Chintana – Vision for the Future’ Development Policy Framework. This strategic development plan for Sri Lanka Tourism will help it achieve its core objectives of serving the needs of all stakeholders and ensuring that the economic benefits of the industry are distributed to a larger cross section of the society from fishermen, craftsmen, farmers, street vendors, tour guides and tour operators, right up to the hotel industry. As per this strategy, the key objectives of developing the tourism industry are indicated as follows:
- Attract US$ 3,000 million as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the country within five years.
- Increase tourist arrivals from 650,000 in 2010 to 2.5 million by 2016.
- Increase tourism related employment from 125,000 in 2010 to 500,000 by 2016 and expand the tourism based industry and services island-wide.
- Distribute the economic benefits of tourism to a larger cross section of the society and integrate tourism to the real economy.
- Increase foreign exchange earnings from US$ 500 million in 2010 to US$ 2.75 billion by 2016.
- Contribute towards improving the global trade and economic linkages of Sri Lanka.
- Position Sri Lanka as the world’s most treasured island for tourism.
The Government, with its agenda based on benefitting its people through the thriving industry of tourism, played a major role in achieving this target by linking the tourism industry with the mindset of the public.
Having identified Russia, Eastern European countries, Japan, China, Korea and India as emerging markets, SLTPB executed a new series of promotional activities incorporating the new strategies of the Government.
This campaign included travel fairs, road shows, major advertising campaigns and social media promotions. The said campaign resulted in a greater contribution from the aforesaid countries. It also helped greatly in achieving the target of 1,000,000 arrivals. India, the Middle East, UK, France, Russia and Eastern European countries were major contributors to the total arrivals.
Sri Lanka Tourism, which has identified the growing tendency of Chinese to travel overseas, has conducted a series of promotional campaigns during 2012 targeting those potential visitors. The intended promotional program to woo Chinese tourists has the backing and strong leadership of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa.
A key aspect among the promotions was the participation in four major travel fairs held in China, such as BITE, GITF, CITM and GITF, which were conducted during 2012. Under the promotional strategy, SLTPB also invited and hosted journalists from 15 leading media institutions in China, covering both electronic and print media.
Among the media institutions which sent journalists to Sri Lanka was Beijing TV which has a viewership of 500 million, and the ‘Beijing Times’ newspaper which has a circulation of over a 100 million. Apart from those institutions, journalists from Baidu.com and the Travel and Leisure Magazine of China too arrived in Sri Lanka, to help promote the island among the Chinese community.
Representatives from 30 leading travel agencies operating in China visited Sri Lanka during 2012. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau invited these agents to the island to take part in a familiarisation tour of the country.
Sri Lanka saw nearly 22,176 tourists arriving from China during the first 11 months of this year, a year-on-year growth of 46%. Sri Lanka is aiming to increase the arrival number to 60,000 tourists by 2013 and has already lined up several promotional campaigns to create awareness about its tourism attractions among the Chinese travellers.
Among the planned campaigns is the introduction of special holiday packages to the Chinese tourists, who are expected to travel during the Lunar New Year. Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is also planning to spread the message to the Chinese audience through a bus advertising campaign and will also hold a three-day ‘Sri Lankan Night’ in China to help promote the island’s tourism package.
Apart from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Government institutions, local travel and tourism sector stakeholders too will participate in the above mentioned ‘Sri Lankan Night’. Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Development and Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera’s guidance and support too has been immense during the SLTPB’s China-based campaigns.
Today, the involvement of a number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism industry has helped earn a lot of foreign exchange. Apart from the island-wide development process launched by the Government, upgrading of infrastructure, road development, the introduction of new segments like new botanical gardens, the expansion of Dehiwala zoo, the development of the hotels in the Eastern province and other parts of the country, the Southern Highway and city beautification programs and Hambantota’s new marine port, have contributed in developing the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
In addition, the construction of Mattala airport, Katunayaka-Colombo Highway and Colombo Outer-Circular Highway are the other programs that will be carried out in future, to develop tourism. At present, the tourism industry has become a major component in bringing about the economic boom in post-conflict Sri Lanka.
The peaceful situation of the country and its hereditary beauty intermingle to attract many visitors around the globe. With this positive situation, international investors have begun to expand the domestic market to cater to the potential growth of tourist arrivals in the years to follow. For example, the construction of major tourist hotels such as Shangri La, Centara, Marriot, OZO is underway at present.
With these ongoing developments, Sri Lanka Tourism targets a number of 1.2 million arrivals for 2013. Thus, the Bureau has already planned to participate in 36 major travel fairs across the globe. In addition, international promotional activities will also be executed largely in collaboration with social media sites and world famous airlines to make this long term goal a reality. Moreover, under the visiting journalists program, Sri Lanka Tourism has also made yearly arrangements to invite 200 foreign journalists from leading magazines and television channels around the globe and thereby to enhance the image of Sri Lanka. These journalists, after familiarisation tours in Sri Lanka, are to write image-building articles on Sri Lanka, upon return to their native countries. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Tourism will start a promotional campaign with British Arways and will make arrangements to resume direct flights to Colombo from Gatwick, UK in March 2013.
With the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the guidance of Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the tourism industry is poised for growth, in line with the national effort of making Sri Lanka the emerging Wonder of Asia.