Sri Lanka is not known as a tourist destination as seen in a recent survey conducted in 10 countries, said Jetwing Hotels Ltd Chairman Hiran Cooray, at a seminar on current development and future prospects in the tourism sector organized by Acuity Stock Brokers (Pvt) Ltd in Colombo last week.
An urgent need for a strong marketing mechanism and the necessity to carry out brand building and image enhancement activities exists. Brand development is needed to improve credibility, dependability, believability and acceptability in the minds of the tourists, he said.
Among the top 10 contributors to Sri Lanka, India held the first position in both 2008 and 2009. This was in spite of the fact that arrivals had dropped by 2 %. In second position was the UK with a slight increase of 263 tourists in 2009.
In 2008 the top five contributors were India, UK, Maldives, Germany and Australia. Australia was able to remain in this position in 2009 as well. The fact to note is that emerging new source markets such as Canada and Japan is featured in this list. Japan which was off the list in 2008 returned after the Japanese government issued favourable travel advisories on Sri Lanka, he said.
The construction of new hotels has been approved in Passekudah and Batticaloa to promote eastern beaches. Kuchchiveli, north of the eastern port and five islands in Kalpitiya, which would be similar to the Maldives, are to be developed as new zones, industry sources said. The Naga Viharaya, Nallur Kovil, Jaffna Fort and library are to be promoted as tourist attractions.
The government plans to build a domestic airport at Uchchamunai, an under-water amusement park in Kandakkuliya, golf course in Dutch Bay, a race course and a cricket playground in Kalpitiya. Fishing tourism, leisure tourism and Ayurvedic tourism are some of the concepts the Sri Lankan government is planning to implement.
The Galle festival, Hikkaduwa festival, Sigiriya ‘craft mela’ are some events that will be organized by the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry to attract tourists. Tax concessions are offered by the government to encourage private investors to invest in new hotels, refurbish and upgrade the existing ones to be on par with the global standards.
The estimated number of tourist arrivals this year would be 600,000. The “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” is expected to attract 765,000 tourists. However a target of 2.5 million tourists has been set for the year 2016. In order to accommodate this number an additional 2000 to 3000 new hotel rooms will be constructed during 2010. A further 20,000 rooms is to be added in the next six years to cater to the boom.