Spotlight on luring UK tourists

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka Tourism has designated 2011 as “Visit Sri Lanka Year” and it is tipped to be a record year for tourist arrivals. Since the end of the war in 2009 and with the global economic recovery now underway, the island’s natural charms are more appealing than ever.

Already, 2010 saw a huge increase – 46% growth – in the number of tourist arrivals, compared with 2009. Britain sent the second largest number of visitors (over 105,000 for the year) after India.

The UK is the world’s sixth largest economy and British tourists contribute more to the Sri Lankan economy than any other group. They spend more ($82/Rs. 9,000 a day); stay longer (an average of 10-12 days) and travel to more diverse parts of the island than any other tourists.

Sanjika Perera, UK & Ireland Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau explained what attracts British tourists to Sri Lanka. “The UK is the most important source market in the Western hemisphere. Owing to cultural ties such as cricket, tea and colonial heritage, it has been a resilient and consistent source for Sri Lanka Tourism and we are very keen to work with the UK authorities and travel trade to realise the potential for growth.”

Sri Lanka’s attractions

Sri Lanka’s first-class beaches remain its most popular attraction with 60% of British visitors spending the whole of their stay at the beachside. At the same time, British visitors are more inclined than any others to venture inland to experience Sri Lankan culture.

Cultural tourism has significant potential as a growth area for Sri Lanka tourism. For example, tourists visiting the UK spend more than £16 billion annually (over Rs. 2.75 trillion) and over a quarter of this spending is on the UK’s culture and heritage. Increasing the revenue from Sri Lanka’s heritage sites should be a key objective for the future.

Sri Lanka has eight world heritage sites, including the Sigiriya rock fortress, the city of Kandy and the Galle Fort. Hiran Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing Hotels Ltd., has noticed Britons’ affection for these locations. “British travellers clearly dominate our hotel rooms in Sigiriya, Kandy and Galle. We expect the visitor numbers from Britain to be even higher in 2011 and look forward to welcoming them.”

UK tourism is good business

 UK tourism increases the profitability of businesses operating in the travel sector in Sri Lanka. In addition, more and more Sri Lankan-run businesses are beginning to be set up in the UK to gain a slice of the lucrative tour operator market.

James Grace-Jayasundara, set up Ampersand Travel (specialists in, tailor-made tourism) in the UK in 2003. Ampersand experienced a 34% increase in enquiries about travel to Sri Lanka in the last six months and is optimistic that there will be steady growth for the coming years.

“Sri Lanka has some of the most sophisticated and beautiful boutique hotels and villas in Asia,” commented James. “It is already a great favourite with well-heeled travel cognoscenti and now, with the re-introduction of the air taxis its popularity as a luxury destination is bound to soar.”

Sri Lankan Farzana Dobbs has run a travel agency business in the UK for 25 years. Based in Kensington, London, The Travel Gallery today sells luxury holidays worldwide and runs a specialist tour operation to Sri Lanka.

Farzana said, “Since peace was achieved Sri Lanka has become a hot destination for British tourists. The country offers a kaleidoscope of experiences.

 Our individually-designed itineraries include visits to the Cultural Triangle and the Hill Country as well as a stay at the beach. With an average stay of 10-12 nights, our holidays are typically above £2,000 (Rs. 350,000) per person and our clients spend even more when they are in the country.”

With companies like Ampersand and The Travel Gallery working alongside the dynamic Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau in London, it is very likely that the British contingent will continue to play a prominent role in Sri Lanka’s tourist boom this year. 2011, then, seems to be the year to visit Sri Lanka.

Expert tips

The UK is one of Sri Lanka’s most significant trading partners, and the tourism sector offers tremendous potential for further growth.

If you have a unique service or business idea that you think will find a market in the UK, we recommend the following tips.

Understand your market – who are your customers going to be? Tourism operators in the UK are increasingly targeting the luxury, tailored end of the tourist market.

Find trade bodies or partners that will support your aims. Most UK-based travel companies work with Tourism Authority bodies such as the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

Focus on what makes your company special or different to others. Like the UK, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage. Make the most of your difference!

For a wealth of information on the practicalities of setting up business in the UK visit the UK Trade & Investment website at