SL kicks off key tourism push at WTM today

Monday, 4 November 2019 00:14 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

 WTM London’s Senior Director Simon Press with legendary Sri Lankan batsman and the current MCC Chairman Kumar Sangakkara at the announcement of Sri Lanka as the Premier Partner Country of WTM 2019 from 4 to 6 November in London


  • Big boost as Premier Partner at world’s biggest three-day travel and tourism fair in London
  • Over 60 companies, 160 personnel on show at SL Pavilion to woo British, other European tourists as part of Easter Sunday tragedy recovery
  • Industry upbeat on pickup in arrivals from UK with WTM marketing and English cricket team tour in March next year


By Nisthar Cassim in London

Sri Lanka will kick off its biggest on-site tourism promotion post Easter Sunday tragedy at the three-day World Travel Market (WTM) beginning today in London.

The fresh push for destination marketing has got a big boost as Sri Lanka is the Premier Partner at the WTM, the leading global event for the travel industry, attended by over 50,000 international travel trade professionals. 

The Premier Partnership deal with WTM London will mean thousands of international travel trade professionals and buyers will see the new ‘So Sri Lanka’ branding and hundreds of journalists and influencers will hear about the country’s culture, scenery and heritage. This year WTM marks its 40th anniversary.

A large industry delegation comprising over 60 companies and 160 personnel led by Tourism Minister John Amaratunga is on show at the Sri Lanka Pavilion at the WTM. Today afternoon Sri Lanka will host a media briefing titled ‘Resilient & Strong Sri Lanka’ for the benefit of international media covering WTM. 

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in UK Manisha Gunasekara, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Managing Director Charmarie Maelge and WTM Director Simon Press will be present at the opening of the Sri Lanka Pavilion as well as at a reception later in the evening.

Minister Amaratunga will also figure in a WTM panel discussion titled ‘Taking Responsibility for Safety & Security’ along with South Africa Tourism Acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini and UK’s leading association of travel agents and tour operators ABTA Director of Destinations and Sustainability Nikki White. 

According to SLTPB, the high-profile partnership with WTM will ensure global coverage for Sri Lanka, which has also teamed with legendary Sri Lankan batsman and the current MCC Chairman Kumar Sangakkara to help tourism bounce back. 

During an interview announcing the partnership last week, Sangakkara said: “I am very confident that tourists who come to Sri Lanka will have a wonderful time. I have seen the country recover very well in terms of ensuring the security of both its nationals and tourists from all over the world. Those who come to Sri Lanka want to experience the country in full.”

SLTPB will share its exhibition space at WTM London (Stand AS200) with 68 travel trade partners, including hotels, travel agencies, resorts and operators – all united in their mission to help the country rebuild its tourism trade.

With over 250,000 arrivals (in 2018), the UK is the third largest source market for Sri Lanka tourism. In the first nine months of this year, UK was the second the largest source market though arrivals had dipped by 18.5% to 153,000. However the industry is hopeful of a pickup with concerted promotion at the WTM this week as well as English cricket team tour to the island in March next year. 

SLTPB said key marketing themes under the ‘So Sri Lanka’ banner at WTM London would be the island’s remarkable natural beauty, its rich heritage, and welcoming locals. 

In a statement, WTM London’s Senior Director Simon Press said: “WTM London is delighted to announce Sri Lanka as its Premier Partner for 2019. It has been so heartening to see the country recover from the appalling events last Easter and it looks set to have a busy winter season. Being WTM London’s Premier Partner means Sri Lanka can entice trade buyers and media from across the globe, which will help visitor numbers return to or even surpass the levels seen in 2018 – boosting the country’s economy and helping to provide jobs for thousands of workers.”

SLPTB said through this Premier Partnership status, Sri Lanka aims to “win back the popularity for the destination and aggressively promote the diverse tourism offering”.

In a statement Minister John Amaratunga said he was confident that the tourism industry “is now at a stable position and seeing fast improvements”.

“Already rooms are getting filled for next March for the cricket tours, some hotels in the south are currently fully booked. This is good not only for hotels but for all the small businesses dependent on tourism too. We will be building back our tourism stronger than ever and this particular promotion planned in the UK will create visibility and drive the arrivals from the UK to a level greater than what it was.”

Commenting on Sangakkara’s involvement to help the country, Managing Director Charmarie Maelge said: “We are extremely fortunate to have our celebrity cricketer Kumar to help us launch the WTM Premier Partnership in London, by participating in the massive SLTPB-organised broadcasters’ day interview sessions with the WTM.” 

“He (Sangakkara) is a one proud Sri Lankan who shared his love for the country, covering all aspects of tourism; this is priceless for Sri Lanka Tourism right now. Kumar is identified as cricketing royalty in the UK, with his recent appointment as President of Marylebone Cricket Club. Being the first non-British President of MCC to hold this position, he is extremely popular in the UK. Kumar’s invitation to visit Sri Lanka will spread not only in the UK, but many other cricketing countries, especially in India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa. In addition to sports broadcasters, we worked with a number of lifestyle channels to build consumer awareness.”

The SLTPB-organised broadcasters’ day held last week at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, with High Commissioner Manisha Gunasekara’s attendance and fullest support and assistance to promote Sri Lanka, was attended by Reuters TV, Sky Sports News, and talkSPORT, which are likely to win the rights for the radio commentary for England’s tour of Sri Lanka in March and April 2020. 

Reuters TV will be syndicated in mainstream media, distributing the interview to hundreds of TV stations and websites around the world which subscribe to receive its content. The BBC Radio 5 Live afternoon show was presented by Nihal Arthanayake, who is also a Sri Lankan. Some others were: ESPN Cricinfo, the world’s biggest cricket website; BBC World Service Radio;’s Stumped; BBC Asian Network Wisden podcast; and the Cricketer magazine podcast. 

Following the WTM Premier Partnership launch, there were many other interviews scheduled, such as BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, where Sangakkara gave a passionate interview about tourism in Sri Lanka; BBC Radio 2 has the highest listenership of any UK radio program.

The second wave of publicity will commence at WTM, to continue what Sangakkara started. Maelge said with Sangakkara’s invitation to visit Sri Lanka, enquiries for holidays from Brits were already coming in, and SLTPB was looking forward to a busy season.