Business Times

World Cup: Many Sri Lankan stakeholders set to benefit

By Hiran Cooray

The 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup (WC) currently underway is the tenth installment of this world class sporting event and is co-hosted by three South Asian Test cricket playing countries: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The tournament is the world's third largest sporting event with media reports estimating global audience levels reaching over 200 million. The benefits of this sporting event will be wide and far reaching not only limited to those in tourism but to all stakeholders along the way.

Indeed the WC presents Sri Lanka with a golden prospect to change perceptions about the island and to influence public opinion around the globe, in addition to being an opportunity for Sri Lanka as a people, a destination and a country competing on the world stage, to become world class, be it on the field we are playing on, in our hospitality trade and across our tourism related service trades.

Sri Lanka is set to benefit in a number of multi faceted ways. In addition to money spent by visitors including pre and post stays, the country will also gain via infrastructure investments, employment opportunities and skills development in addition to the further empowering of a national identity and the greater inculcation of an overwhelming sense of unity.

Despite criticisms of the two new international venues being prepared to host WC encounters, the results are not only modern state of the art world class facilities, but an invitation to the world to host events in the future, that will create opportunities, not only in tourism, but across other service related industries in the country.

Service is not relative to size, it is an attitude and philosophy that must become part of our culture which in time must aim at earning our country a reputation that assures present and future benefits and profit. Therefore Sri Lankan hoteliers and all contact points for WC visitors must ensure high levels of service are in place, levels that not only reflect a temporary change but a permanent change in the mindset of all frontline staff for it is the little things from that welcoming smile to extending true Sri Lankan hospitality in spirit and indeed, that will be a legacy to our small island.

Let us co-operate as a people and show the world the rich cultural offerings of our country. We must use this opportunity to develop and share our art, handicraft, music, poetry and performing arts with our guests.

People from all over the world will not only hear about and see our island during the matches, but will visit our island before, during and long after to be part of that historic era. Visibility for Sri Lanka during the games will essentially be as a cricket venue, but the impression of people who attend the matches and view it on television will be lasting and a perfect marketing opportunity for our tourism industry.
The direct benefit to a destination is the cash spent by these visitors while the indirect benefit can be years of follow up visits. Some additional benefits can include the development of new infrastructure and service industries, increased employment and a stronger national economy. The pre and post publicity from the games will also manifest itself in a growth in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) market in addition permanent infrastructure improvements.

The benefits of hosting a major sporting event are as wide reaching, deeply penetrating and long lasting as the vision of the leadership of the local government and people of the destination. While there may only be the World Cup, when it comes to hosting this mammoth tournament, winning, goes far beyond the cricketers. If we plan, unite, think and work together for country and ourselves, the boundaries are endless and the final ultimate result will be Sri Lanka who wins.

(Mr Cooray is an experienced tourism industry professional with a wealth of experience across the Asia Pacific region. He is Chairman of Jetwing Hotels and also chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association-PATA).

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