The need of a well-executed global marketing blitz to woo tourists and elevate Sri Lanka’s position in the global tourism market has been emphasised by leading blue chip John Keells Holdings Chairperson Krishan Balendra recently.
Speaking at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce ‘Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2023’, he expressed regret over Sri Lanka’s failure to launch a comprehensive global tourism campaign in the aftermath of the war, identifying it as a substantial missed opportunity to invigorate the industry.
“The industry has been requesting a global campaign since the end of the war akin to those executed by Malaysia and India.
Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to implement one in over 10 years,” he said, underscoring the urgency for a strategic approach and emphasised the need for comprehensive promotion to boost the industry.
Balendra also stressed the need for Sri Lanka to capitalise on its proximity to India, highlighting it as the single biggest source market.
“India is a significant opportunity,” he said, drawing attention to the successful expansion of Chinese tourism into neighbouring countries over the last two decades.
“Sri Lanka is a mere three and a half hours away from India, yet has not made a concerted effort to launch an extensive, well-planned tourism promotional campaign,” he claimed.
During the first 27 days of November, Sri Lanka welcomed 137,703 tourists, of that, Indian arrivals accounted for 27,281 or 20%. Considering year-to-date (YTD) data, India remains strong with 255,813 or 20%, the latest data published by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).
Balendra further noted the active promotion of tourism destinations by countries like Thailand, Malaysia and China, with Indian citizens expressing a lack of visibility for Sri Lanka in comparison.
Suggesting a proactive approach, he underscored the imperative for Sri Lanka Tourism to enhance its endeavours with comprehensive campaigns, underscoring the importance of strategic planning and extensive promotion to draw in Indian tourists.
Sri Lanka Tourism expressed optimism to welcome 1.55 million tourists and generate $ 2.7 billion in revenue by the end of the year whilst setting its sights on increasing arrivals to 5 million and earning an impressive $ 21.6 billion within seven years.
Although the earnings target is slightly below the original target of $ 3 billion, the forecast reflects a commendable turnaround for the industry that has navigated through a series of challenges over the past three years.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Priantha Fernando glorified the sector’s recovery, noting that the industry is well within the reach of attracting another 450,000 tourists, with a year-to-date figure of over 1.1 million tourists already visited .