77% ‘delighted’ with SL experience, 2 m tourism target possible in 2015

Monday, 9 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala with top 18 industry participants to Italian Tourism Fair starting 12 February in Milan     Of the 1.5 million visitors that have come to Sri Lanka in 2014, the initial results that are coming out on the airport exit survey reveal that 77% commented that they were ‘delighted’ with the experience in Sri Lanka, whilst 22% commented that they were satisfied. Only 0.8% said they were dissatisfied. The overall reading is reflective of the strong performance of the private sector even with all the challenges that we have been faced with in Sri Lanka. The two million target for 2015 is possible, commented Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala when he briefed the 18 top organisations that drive the Italian tourism business and who are taking part in the key tourism trade fair that Sri Lanka will take part in – BIT, Milan Fiera Milano, Italy from 12 to 14 February. One industry veteran said that the delight factor could be attributed to the low expectations a typical visitor had on Sri Lanka prior to the visit given that the awareness levels globally of what Sri Lankan can offer is low. This is true given that Sri Lankan advertising spend though to be at four billion odd, competitor destination spend is a strong 50 to 60 million dollars said another industry veteran but he commended the new direction of the tourism ministry on the private- public partnership approach to planning the global push of Sri Lanka tourism. Chairman Athukorala said, “As per the direction of the Minister for Sports and Tourism Navin Disasanayake my task is to give back the pride of the public sector officials who work at the ministry tourist board and rebuild the strong link with the private sector – we are here to serve the industry.” Prior to this he was the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board and the only chairman to serve the export community for five years post being chairman where Sri Lanka saw export revenue increase from 6 to 11 billion dollars. An allegation doing the circles is that almost Rs. 750 million have been misappropriated by the previous administration and almost 350 million worth of global advertising has been done without proper contracts cleared by the legal division of the tourism board whilst the board constitute is not in line to the tourism act that has been the grouse of the tourism industry. A participant at the briefing said, “This is the first time in two years that a Chairman has attended a meeting with the private sector to ask what can be done better by Sri Lanka Tourism.” The planned spend for the year 2015 is said to be almost four billion rupees that come under the purview of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau which is why careful depends on who leads this new role for Sri Lanka given that the push of the Sirisena Government is to build the links with the west that in fact contributes to half the visitors into Sri Lanka. Athukorala commented that he wants to pursue a ‘nation branding campaign’ whilst looking at promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination so that we also support export market development and FDIs into Sri Lanka. We must look at a strategic development to developing brand Sri Lanka he said. Some of the key activations discussed in view of the forthcoming BIT tourism fair in Italy was inviting the journalists to the Sri Lankan stall at the fair who visited Sri Lanka earlier during the year with the visit of his holiness the Pope, running a TV screen with footage of the Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka so that it helps build a strong link with the people of Italy. One participant said they commended the efforts of the tourist board in increasing the floor space at this year’s event and the location of the stall at the fair.