Financial Times

Sri Lanka Tourism gears up for post-conflict


As the decades long civil conflict in Sri Lanka nears its end, Sri Lanka Tourism is gearing up for an image overhaul which includes a new brand, a global electronic media branding campaign and a unique local activation process for the new branding exercise.

At a media briefing this week, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), Bernard Goonetilleke said the conflict is practically at the end. “We are reaching out to the world to say Sri Lanka is once again in business,” he said.
Mr. Goonetilleke said there have been around 10 to 12 investors already expressing interest in building facilities for tourists over a 160-acre piece of land in Passikudah in the east. There are also new investment opportunities for developing Arugam Bay, Nilaveli and land north of Trincomalee.

He said the potential for tourism is immense but the industry has not been able to maximize the situation due to the conflict. Since the mid 1980’s, the number of tourism arrivals has stagnated at around half a million and has come down over the past few years. He added that developing a unique brand, to be announced on June 24 will take into account the diversity and authenticity of the country.

Mr. Goonetilleke said there is also a comprehensive action plan to promote Sri Lanka over the next few months in several primary European markets such as the United Kingdom (UK), France and Germany and other markets including Russia, the Middle East, India and China. Promotional activities with hotels and SriLankan Airlines are also being looked at, aimed at the primary markets for the summer. The 2-for-1 offer launched in the UK in April 2009 resulted in 2,500 plus bookings to Sri Lanka. The offer which goes on until June this year includes free airfare, hotel stay, transfers and entry to selected UNESCO World Heritage sites and the Elephant Orphanage for the second person.

In addition, Sri Lanka Tourism is also embarking upon a global electronic media branding campaign via key television stations such as CNN, BBC, Discovery, Travel & Living and Al Jazeera. Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism George Michael described the cost as ‘a huge amount’ but said it was important to position Sri Lanka in the best possible manner around the world.

As part of the post conflict plan, Sri Lanka Tourism also launched an exclusive events calendar where several key events are held to attract more tourists to the country. They include the annual Hikkaduwa Beach Fest, Negombo Beach Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Tea Festival and the Kandy Festival. (NG)

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