Business Times

Increased interest generated by new operators, says industry

No marketing campaigns, no officials at ITB
By Sunimalee Dias

Sri Lanka Tourism at the International Tourismus Borse (ITB) in Berlin had a dearth of key government officials present to market the destination effectively. In spite of the last ditch effort to send Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau General Manager Vipula Wanigasekara for fair, he too was unable to attend the event. Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and an officer in charge of the German market were the only officials present at the ITB this year.

The industry observed that the presence of key officials was required unless necessary tourism professionals are available at the Sri Lankan missions overseas. It was pointed out that although everything went off well it was important for either key senior officials to be present at the tourism trade fairs who are required to meet with relevant industry persons and the media to provide necessary information.

Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Anura Lokuhetty told the Business Times that they have continuously kept the government informed of the importance of the presence of key officials at trade fairs. It was noted that as marketing is essential and since it was not carried out as in other competing destinations there is a need for at least officials to be present in order to capitalize on the trade events and exhibitions.

At the recently concluded ITB fair operators believed Sri Lanka was a “hot destination” and had noted that there was complete peace in the country, Mr. Lokuhetty explained. They had expressed their desire to visit Sri Lanka as there is now an increased demand for travel to the island nation.

Last year the industry observed a “substantial growth” in the German market compared to the UK and the former is one of the largest outbound markets, he said. It was pointed out that with each guest that arrives from Western Europe it not only increases the number of arrivals but also it is more about the number of nights spent in Sri Lanka.

Aitken Spence Hotels Managing Director Malin Hapugoda also regretted the absence of tourism officials at the ITB. He noted however, that while it would be definitely good if these senior officials were present, the government believes it is necessary for the Sri Lankan embassies to take charge of these events.
In this respect, Mr. Hapugoda observed there was a need to ensure that tourism professionals were available at the embassies to handle these matters.

He pointed out that they believed the government would look into this matter in the future.
Commenting on the overall conduct of the ITB, he was in praise of the efforts of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Berlin for setting up a notable stall highlighting the uniqueness of the local culture on the 268 sqm x 30 sqm space that was well decorated and open.

Mr. Hapugoda also said that the demand for Sri Lanka was better this year than it was previously.
Since Sri Lanka’s tourism sector developed rapidly during the last year with exciting new ventures, tourist attractions and a fleet of new exclusive resorts and hideaways, the Sri Lankan participants at the event were expected to reveal these positive hopes abroad, Sri Lankan Tourism said in a press release.
Another major attraction of the Sri Lanka pavilion was a group of large panels displaying eight themes depicting various attractions of the island.

The pavilion was also decorated in promoting some major attractions of the island. In addition, visitors to the Sri Lankan stall were able to enjoy a tea boutique promoting the Ceylon tea brand among the German visitors plus a spa room which gives an excellent foot massage, the release said.

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