Given the projected growth trends for international tourism over the next few years, Sri Lanka’s ambitious target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016 is well within reach, says Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal. “Nevertheless, it is important that we strategically target the key source markets and customize the tourism product to cater better to [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Harnessing tourism potential through targeted strategies


Given the projected growth trends for international tourism over the next few years, Sri Lanka’s ambitious target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016 is well within reach, says Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

“Nevertheless, it is important that we strategically target the key source markets and customize the tourism product to cater better to the needs of those markets. Furthermore, to successfully market the destination, it is essential that Sri Lanka is also able to attract international tourism brands that will provide high visibility for the country as well as their own brands, in the source markets,” he said in a statement on tourism.

Excerpts of his statement:

“As far as the tourism industry is concerned, we are increasingly becoming one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world; and our efforts to gear up the port and airport development is expanding the potential for Sri Lanka to become a key tourist and transit hub for Asia.

Anticipating this growing potential, some of the leading hotel chains in the world have chosen Sri Lanka for their expansion, and currently major hotel and entertainment projects, including Shangri-La, Sheraton, Mövenpick, Crown Resorts, and Marriott which are planning to open for business in 2014 and 2015, are underway. It is noteworthy that most of these major developments in the tourism industry take place as foreign direct investments (FDI). Such FDIs are due to create thousands of new jobs over the years for Sri Lanka, and these inflows will continue to be a key job creation source for our nation. For example, the US$4 billion FDI project spearheaded by Singapore’s Sri Lanka Gateway Industries (Pvt) Ltd is, expected to create 5,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs in the country. These and other additional jobs will lead to increased spending locally by the thousands of new entrants to the economic stakeholder groups.

Meanwhile in developing Sri Lanka’s tourism strategy, more emphasis needs to be placed on the prospects and emerging trends in regional and global tourism landscape, as well. It is becoming increasingly clear that much of the rapid growth in global travel over the next few years is expected to be from China.

At the same time, the largely untapped Indian market is also expected to figure prominently in Sri Lanka’s tourism effort, and the leisure sector must make a concerted effort to draw in more Indian tourists, by identifying and catering to the needs of India’s high net worth individuals and its affluent middle class.

As a destination which is just one to three hours away from most Indian airports, Sri Lanka could be one of the more popular destinations for the burgeoning Indian middle class population with rising disposable incomes, seeking affordable holiday options. The availability of direct flights, and high quality tourism facilities make Sri Lanka the perfect destination even for weekend travel.

Sri Lanka will also be an attractive destination for Middle Eastern travellers, offering both the business and leisure tourists a host of options and a convenient location, along with sensitivity towards their cultural needs.

To capture these lucrative markets, investment in the hospitality industry is critical. In this connection, it is heartening that Sri Lanka has embarked on various activities to provide the best entertainment experience for tourists, in parallel to the competitor destinations in the region. In this regard, a ‘tourism event calendar’ which facilitates international sporting events on an annual basis, will help to target niche tourist markets, particularly of youth tourism, which is involved in adventure sports, including beach volleyball, sailing, white water rafting, mountain biking, hot air balloon racing, scuba diving, water skiing etc. In addition, several areas of Sri Lanka are being given a modern look with ample recreational facilities, so that tourists can also enjoy the benefits of modern lifestyle within the country. Further, the progress that is being made to enhance the entertainment and gaming industry would help to cater to a growing segment of leisure travelers across the world.

With Sri Lanka’s strong economic growth and positive policy initiatives, the country is now well positioned to take advantage of foreign investment.

Our continued efforts to create a business friendly environment has been well recognized with Sri Lanka being the highest ranking country in the Doing Business Index (DBI) in South Asia and is the only country in the region to improve its ranking for 2013. Sri Lanka also moved to “High Human Development Category” from “Medium Human Development Category” in the Human Development Index (HDI). In this backdrop, it is the responsibility of every citizen to foster a warm and welcoming environment for tourist development, in order that we will, collectively, secure prosperity for our nation in the years to come.”

Global investment paves the way for Sri Lanka’s new growthSri Lanka is set to take centre stage of South Asian development with a host of strategic investment projects taking off. The upcoming CHOGM summit, due to take place in the country in November 2013, affords Sri Lanka an opportunity to showcase itself tothe world as a confident and vibrant emerging economy, thereby inviting more foreign direct investment, says Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Co-operation and Deputy Minister of Finance.

Sri Lanka, he said in a statement, is strategically located at the cross roads of both the East and West sea routes and serves as the point of entry into South Asia.

“The country’s strategic location on the world map allows the nation to enjoy a plethora of benefits which certain global giants are identifying as exciting opportunities to contribute their free flow of capital, knowledge and best practices. In the leisure sector, international brands such as Shangri La, Hyatt, Movenpick, etc. have begun work on leisure properties to enhance the tourism product of the country while the likes of Crown Resorts will shortly embark on integrated resort projects which have the capacity to draw in large numbers of high value tourists,” he said adding that already, Colombo boasts of long-standing Hilton and Taj properties, in addition to local 5 star hotels such as the Cinnamon Grand, Cinnamon Lakeside, Kingsbury and Water’s Edge.

He said Sri Lanka has opened its doors and invited investment from world renowned brands who have the stature, experience and prowess to boost the development drive initiated by the Government with a 2020 vision to make Sri Lanka ‘The Wonder of Asia’.
“When there are other countries in the Asian region such as Vietnam, Thailand, Maldives and Indonesia, blossoming and evolving to meet the challenges of the modern age, it’s a wonderful opportunity for Sri Lanka to be handpicked as a viable destination for investment with growth potential,” he noted in the statement.

Referring to the Singapore success story and its’ phenomenal growth, he said that Sri Lanka will undoubtedly be a mirror of Singapore’s amazing transformation and the forward thinking Sri Lankan is ready for this big change. “It is the duty of the progressive Sri Lankan people to view development with global investment in the positive light that it deserves to be considered. No nation or commercially successful enterprise in the world will be channeling their resources to nations without a potential to grow their investment and business,” he added.
Sri Lanka is blessed with one of the best assets, a large pool of human capital. The Sri Lankan people boast of a higher literacy rate than their counterparts in the region. “Foreign Direct Investment will be the best way we as a nation can fulfill our aspirations to the fullest.

This is Sri Lanka’s moment. All of us as patriotic Sri Lankans must believe in this reality and work toward becoming stakeholders and beneficiaries in our different capacities,” he stressed.

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