By Sunimalee Dias
The tourism industry’s cut down on excessive overseas travel has been a result of the Government’s increased focus on boosting product development.
Sources observed that in spite of the current favourable situation within the industry, the Tourism Ministry is engaging in firm cuts on foreign trips by officials of the Tourism Promotion Bureau and Tourism Authority.
However, Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa speaking to the Daily FT yesterday said that while even he did not participate in travel fairs, it had nothing to do with any cut in expenditure but a shift in focus towards product development.
In this respect, the Government is currently working towards ensuring the ground situation is effectively handled by readying the product to be marketed by upgrading the service standards, engaging in investment promotion and infrastructure development and improving local attachments and product development.
Dr. Godahewa observed that while this was “not a policy decision,” most directors and other officials do not participate at travel fairs any longer, as done previously. The requirement is to send a competent officer to handle the media, which was the main contribution by the Government official at a travel fair, he said.
He noted that during his presence at the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London last year, he had observed that they were mainly involved in giving interviews to the media.
At this year’s ITB in Berlin as well, Dr. Godahewa pointed out that there would only be two-member participation from the Government, namely Managing Director Malraj Kiriella and Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena.
“I don’t think the Treasury likes it and the Treasury has been critical about too many travelling on these fairs,” he said, adding that this must be due to certain valid reasons.
Participation at a trade fair is mainly required by the industry that will be manning the stall and engaging in the sale of the products and services.
Focus is currently on product development, for which there is US$ 1.5 billion in the pipeline in terms of investment coming in within the next six months.
“Now we are looking at the current priorities of the country and spending on where we should,” the Chairman said.
But he noted that in later years, once product development has been carried out effectively, they would then look at travelling overseas for greater promotional activities at trade fairs.