Tourism transformed

Thursday, 30 September 2010 10:53 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Long-awaited tagline revealed; plans to combine tourist boards and reduce campaigns for next two years unveiled

By Cheranka Mendis

Sri Lanka is on the verge of finalising the long-delayed tagline which has become a political quagmire by sticking to the familiar, but is gearing up for sweeping changes – including the amalgamation of the tourist boards and severe reduction of publicity due to industry infrastructure constraints.

Speaking at the CIM Talking Point yesterday, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Dr. Nalaka Godahewa stated that the answer to the big question of “what’s our tagline going to be?” would most probably be ‘Sri Lanka: The Wonder of Asia,’ a highlighting statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Mahinda Chinthana’ manifesto.

The new tagline, which is expected to be accepted from all political quarters, encapsulates “Sri Lanka as authentic, diverse and compact. Tourists can enjoy an abundance of experience in one go – in one compact island. It really is the wonder of Asia,” Godahewa said.

Speaking of the failure of the previous tagline – ‘Sri Lanka: Small Miracle’ – Godahewa remarked that it was no easy task putting in place a tagline on which all parties would agree. “Creating a tagline for a country is a political thing. A lot of political issues need to be looked into so that it won’t get killed,” he asserted.

He went on to say that as a result of the unpreparedness of the industry, Sri Lanka Tourism would refrain from any publicity campaign for the next two years. Stating that the target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016 was “obviously not a well-calculated number,” Godahewa revealed that no major campaigns would be conducted by Sri Lanka Tourism for the next two years.

‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ year, which would have kicked off next year according to plans of a previous management body, will not be celebrated in full force and only a few products will be held in respect for the much-publicised event.

“We are not ready yet. According to the given statistics, natural tourism growth without any communication will come to 850,000 tourists by 2011. If proven correct, this would mean that the accommodation/capacity we have now will only be marginally sufficient to accommodate arrivals. If we do publicise it and more people express willingness to travel here, there will be more chaos,” he said adding, “First we need to get the product right.”

On getting the necessary capacity ready for 2016, the Chairman agreed that the approvals for new hotels to be built must be regularised and delivered via a one-stop-shop. He stated that if all goes according to plan and all resources from line industries come together, the one stop shop facility could be activated from early October this year.

Godahewa also stated that a new structure had been proposed to replace the current configuration of the four bodies under Sri Lanka Tourism – Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management and Sri Lanka Convention Bureau.

Under the new structure all four will be under one apex body to be known as the ‘Sri Lanka Tourism Authority’. The authority would take into its hand the roles of marketing and promotion, research and planning, support services, development facilities, policy making and regulations and investment promotion.