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Bold and innovative steps, effective marketing key to double tourist arrivals to 5 m

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Doubling of tourist arrivals to five million in three years requires Sri Lanka to take some bold and innovative measures apart from effective marketing of a more organised tourism destination, a top expert opined. 

Steradian Capital Joint Managing Director, Lanka Realty Investments Managing Director and Hayleys Director Hardy Jamaldeen 

Steradian Capital Joint Managing Director and Lanka Realty Investments Plc Managing Director Hardy Jamaldeen, who is also a Director at Hayleys Plc which has interests in travel and tourism, says Sri Lanka can learn fast from the more tourism successful countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and others to get the effort and strategy right. 

Hardy, who has analysed three other countries which have been successful in attracting tourists – Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore – says Sri Lanka meets only one of the seven criteria for success. 

He says Sri Lanka’s main pain points are lack of capacity at the Bandaranaike International Airport, underdeveloped domestic airports, fewer number of international flights, low percentage of budget carriers, unfriendly immigration policy and a disjoined destination offering. The only satisfactory capacity is the number of rooms though the industry is divided over quality, service offering and pricing.

Immediate expansion and modernisation of the Bandaranaike International Airport is a key priority, he said. 

Currently the BIA’s capacity utilisation is an unprecedented 163%, suggesting resources have been overstretched, forcing an unpleasant experience to the international traveller. 

BIA’s designed capacity is six million passengers but it is handling nearly 10 million per annum. Of the traffic handled, over 20% is tourists. 

“If the capacity is increased to 20 million maintaining the 22% arrival mix means 4.4 million tourists,” he said. However to reach the desired five million tourist figure, the arrival mix must be increased to 25% from the current 22%, he explains.

Hardy also emphasised on the need to increase the number of daily flights from the current 94 to 200 and said the ratio of full-service and budget carriers must be substantially increased from 7% at present to 50% which is also similar to the more successful destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Apart from proper development and marketing of the destination, Sri Lanka must truly adopt an open skies policy with special agreements with SAARC countries and perhaps ASEAN. In terms of creation of a friendly Immigration Policy, Hardy says visa on arrival for tourists from regional destinations is a must. “Charge of the visa fee into the ticket, similar to the previous Embarkation Tax,” he added. 

He also opines in comparison to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, Sri Lanka’s tourism offering is scattered.  “We also need to focus on wellness tourism, Ayurveda tourism, bird-based tourism, festival tourism, etc. to make Sri Lanka more attractive to tourists if we are serious about achieving the desired five million target,” Hardy emphasised. 


What it takes for Sri Lanka to achieve 5 million tourists by 2021

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