Sri Lanka’s tourism industry should be braced for a revolutionary change in catering to the growing demands of the future traveller, experts at the Cinnamon Future of Tourism 2015 summit in Colombo said on Monday. The numbers are also saying interesting outcomes with more people expected to travel from emerging economies above the international average number [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s burgeoning Cinnamon brand gathers momentum for sustainable travel


Sri Lanka’s tourism industry should be braced for a revolutionary change in catering to the growing demands of the future traveller, experts at the Cinnamon Future of Tourism 2015 summit in Colombo said on Monday. The numbers are also saying interesting outcomes with more people expected to travel from emerging economies above the international average number of tourists worldwide. The summit was held to coincide with the World Tourism Day celebrated this year on the theme “One billion tourists: One billion opportunities.”

International tourist arrivals will increase by 3.3 per cent a year to reach 1.8 billion by 2030 and arrivals in emerging destinations will increase by 4.4 per cent per year that would be faster than the global average. Sri Lanka is expected to grab a share of this with 2.5 million expected by 2016 which made earnings amounting to Rs.300 billion in 2014.

Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND), Colombo Chairman and former joint Nobel Peace Prize winner Prof. Mohan Munasinghe addressing the summit on Monday highlighted the barriers to the future of tourism in view of the growing inequality between the rich and poor that had led to increased disparities.

It was pointed out that the challenges facing humanity had undermined sustainable development efforts and poverty alleviation.
In addition the rise of climate change was adding to the already existing problems causing poor countries and poor groups to become the most vulnerable to warming, sea level rise, precipitation changes and extreme events. In this respect, Prof. Munasinghe pointed out that making development more sustainable by integrating climate change policy into sustainable development strategy was the way forward.

Sustainable development could be achieved by changing lifestyles through social empowerment, inclusion, consultation; environmental changes with resilience and engaging in biodiversity, improving on natural resources, and reducing pollution; and ensuring economic growth, efficiency and stability.

Towards this end, he pointed out that the tourism industry and civil society were poised to act to promote sustainable consumption and production. Prof. Munasinghe also noted that the media was also responsible for responsible tourism and in making development more sustainable by disseminating correct information to strengthen civil society and business in supporting and influencing government in this regard.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga speaking at the opening said the travel industry needs to be aware of the growing trends in line with the future of tourism. In this respect, he asserted that the industry needs to adopt responsible practices in order to optimise the opportunity in rebuilding the nation through significant contribution to the economy.

Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts President Ajith Gunawardena identified the modern traveller as one seeking authenticity and real experiences rather than fake culture packaged-up for tourists. He pointed out that an appreciation of the local distinctiveness, the idiosyncrasies and detail is what is required in catering to the growing demand of the future travellers.

“It will be about the fragrance of fresh Sri Lankan spices cooked in a village home in Dambulla, it will be about spending a night in a cattle farmer’s tree house in Tissamaharama and enjoying a black tea served in a coconut shell, it will be about the feeling when you are in the middle of the ocean off Mirissa right beside the blue whale, in awe of the natural world,” Mr. Gunawardena explained.

Future Trends and impacts
Experts opine that the tourism industry would face a new generation of global travelers that will want more and spend less and be aware of the growing ecological concerns as a result of which a new demand needs to be met in the future.
The era of technology has come to super stage resulting in grabbing people’s mindset has become a need of the hour, Renne Massati of TrendOne said in his speech titled “The World in 2025 – Traveller Journey.”

Exploring a city through its sounds could be an attractive way of marketing a destination, he pointed out adding that one supermarket had offered to give its customers a personal butler to create an impact. Snap commerce or getting an order in a snap was another way of getting more attention from consumers, he said.

Tomorrow’s consumer is faced with a virtual reality that would take him through a total immersion by facing upto things not before him but almost like he was just there with a virtual preview and ensuring he feels things before actually touching them.
Moreover, artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence, social spin with a connected experience and drones getting that perfect selfie is the new way of doing things that would be the challenges facing an industry catering to a new generation of travellers, Mr. Massatti pointed out.

Ms. Shabori Das, Senior Research Analyst Euromonitor International, asserted that it was the luxury and budget accommodation that had recorded the strongest growth. She noted that the mid price hotels needed to realign to target these categories of sun, beaches and water which is being sought after the most in addition to an increase from bookings that made up for at least 50 per cent of bookings.

The concept of a sharing economy creating new experiences through Airbnb and Uber that allowed people to rent out their home and share taxis respectively pointed to the future of travel. In this respect, Ms. Das said traveller alpha by 2030 would amount to about one billion new people born after 2010 connected via social media and acting more responsible for the global economy.

During the panel discussion Cox and Kings Relationships and Supplier Management Head Karan Anand pointed out that the Indian traveller, ranking on top of the list of arrivals into Sri Lanka, were concerned about their security, food and language in addition to connectivity.

He said that Indians mostly prefer Colombo as a destination to shop and stay for about two nights and in this regard they need to work on the long term tourist. One of the speakers considered to be the only futurologist in tourism Dr. Ian Yeoman said patterns observed showed that there was increased accumulation of social capital and the concept of luxury was changing its meaning.
He noted that the demographics was also changing so much so that today’s society has noted kids going out with their grandparents as opposed to parents and aunts and uncles; in addition men are becoming increasingly more materialistic than women and the younger generation.

Without searching for price the consumer is told what the price is and what the probability of getting it lower is, Dr.Yeoman said.
He also noted that the modern human is moving towards a new world order with the changing likes for even hologram artistes than can actually become huge crowd pullers as in Japan.

Sharing the space
In “Driving the Future of Responsible Travel” Dr. Robert Gavers, an independent advisor for national, regional and city government administrations and a visiting scholar at various institutions in Belgium, spoke of the good countries identified as being the most unlikely like Ireland and Finland at second place showing that money does not always matter.
Sri Lanka ranks 78 among a grouping of 125 counties on the Good country Index, he said adding that destination branding as a concept has changed today compared to marketing.

Dr. Gavers believes that destination branding is more than just a number of images worth millions compared to one image and how that could brand the place internationally.  Ms. April Rinne, Adviser to the World Economic Forum on Shared Economy and Shareable Cities, speaking on the ‘Sharing Economy’ in detail highlighted how more people were living a shared lifestyle and were adapting towards it.

Increased consumer patters are connected to the sharing economy, she pointed out adding that sharing helped economics, environment and community building and relationships and aids convenience. The cost conscious travellers were more concerned how they travel and with whom in addition to becoming digital natives of the future generation.

Ecologist Prof. Sarath Kotagama highlighted the concerns echoed by many in wrapping up in the final speech for the day highlighting how people today were using the earth’s natural capital. In addition, he pointed out that in 2014 over one billion were going hungry and that greenhouse gas emissions continued to be on the rise with the wildlife population on the decline between 1970 and 2010.

However, Prof. Kotagama noted despite these challenges and issues people were travelling and in fact the Sri Lankan arrivals figures show an increase. He noted that this was mainly because of the easy access to information with new countries like China and India found to be increasingly taking to travel the world and become the biggest tourism spenders.

Sharing the chena cultivation concept would help to promote tourism by showing the entire village getting together to cultivate, Prof. Kotagama explained.He pointed out that most often Sri Lanka doesnt show its biodiversity that could be marketed to the international visitor adding that even less than 10 per cent visit the Singharaja forest.

Prof. Kotagama questioned the future of tourism and went to state children should bring about that change and people’s engagement was crucial for the future of the industry.In this sense, it was evident that the industry was braced for a future of increased challenges and a very diverse and technologically driven mindset that was hard to attract but also necessitated increased relationships in the process of engaging people in a shared economy for a sustainably developed time.

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