Sri Lankan tourism has tremendous potential

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:45:13 GMT

    Roads infrastructure and maintenance

    Among the finest in Asia was Malaysia s road system, which is extensive and covers about 63,445 km. There is a main highway that reaches the Thai border from Singapore, a distance of over 800 km (500 miles). The state of the roads, their cleanliness was mind-blowing as it looked like a different part of Asia which most of us were not familiar with.

    Although Peninsular Malaysia s road system is good, Sabah and Sarawak, has less developed roadways, the tourist guide stated reluctantly when he took us to Kuching in Sarawak showing us roads that could be similar when compared to the best of Sri Lankan roads.

    However, what we noticed was there were ample sign boards and direction signs that were clearly written in both English and their local language while the differently-able and the elderly were well looked after by their convenient toilet and parking facilities.

    Besides, Malaysia has five international airports, with the sixth being the newest located south of Kuala Lumpur.

    People

    Courtesy, politeness and good manners were common characteristics of Malaysians. When we needed directions there were many people offering us help expecting nothing. They need not rip us off. The taxi drivers were honest as well and spoke good English while some of them even refused to take a tip. We felt as if our presence was welcome as many locals offered to help us anytime and were assured that we were living in one of the safest places in the world.

    Conservation and preservation of heritage sites

    In a place called Kuching in Sarawak, we were taken to two of the popular local attractions, the Bako National Park and the Sarawak Cultural Village. The Bako National Park was something like a walk down our own Yala or World s End site. However, what was exciting to note was that they were more tourist friendly, meaning that there were ample information in English, shops were lighted up and open and the places looked cleaner. Known as the Living Museum , the Sarawak Cultural Village was set up to preserve and showcase Sarawak s cultural heritage, we were told. There were about 150 people living in the village, demonstrating traditional daily activities from Sarawak s diverse tribes like the processing of sago and the making of handicrafts. They wore traditional costumes and also put on dances for visitors. We were taken to see replicas of buildings that represent every major ethnic group in Sarawak longhouses of the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu, a Melanau tall-house and a Chinese farm house among others.

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:46:52 GMT

    Conclusion

    The experiences of our stay were almost all the lessons that we could learn from a truly tourism promoting nation and gave each one of us a new sphere to traditional thinking. We were appalled at the colourful lighting, come twilight as the city always lit up in various colors and designs. Although it is an Islamic state, night life was wonderful as there were ample things for the non-muslims explaining the model we could adopt to save our culture.

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:48:46 GMT

    [Tourism Ministry and essence of Buddhism.

    If Lord Buddha was alive, one can be sure that he will refer to Sri Lanka s Tourism Ministry to elucidate the concept of uncertainty, the essence on which Buddhism is based on.

    First came Minister Milinda Moragoda. Then in a total twist of events, came Minister Nandana Gunatilake. He was replaced by Minister Achala Jagoda a few months back, making the lay people wonder who exactly is the Tourism Minister. Change seems to be the only thing that does not change in the Tourism Ministry.

    In a total shock, last week we were unfortunate to hear about another change in the Tourism Ministry. The veteran diplomat, who has been extending an invaluable service to Sri Lanka tourism, Bernard Goonatilake, was compelled to resign from his post as the chief of the country s Tourism Promotion Bureau.

    After a lengthy discussion with the Tourism Minister, Goonatilake was reported to have tendered his resignation allowing the minister to appoint his private secretary to the post held by a respected diplomat.

    During Minister Nandana Goonatilake s tenure as the Tourism Minister he was also believed to have tried to do some key changes in the policy making level, but was reported to have failed in carrying out his whims.

    The promotional tag line of the Tourism Ministry further explains Buddhist scriptures. Sri Lanka was once the land like no other and then transformed into a small miracle . Currently, she is neither the land like no other nor a small miracle. It is quite popular among the tourist industry circles to refer to the first tagline, stripping off its connotative meaning, every time the Tourism Ministry makes a blunder!]

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:49:58 GMT

    [In fact, some of the tourist industry stake holders with whom we keep constantly in touch with used to show their displeasure and anguish with us at times when the Tourism Ministry did bizarre things at the policy making level. But it is very distressful to see how they keep silent regarding the current rash decisions at the policy level, understanding the futility of their lobbying, which is of course another key concept of Buddhism.

    Even though the number of tourists arriving in Sri Lanka increase monthly according to Tourism Ministry data, the policy making level of it is evidently in a bad shape. Things are happening. Even if the Tourism Ministry does nothing, the tourists will come in the short term. This was very clearly suggested when the influential New York Times referred to Sri Lanka as the number one tourist destination in the current context.

    In one of the previous editorials in our financial mid week newspaper, The Bottom Line, we explained how the Maldives developed itself from a Maldive fish exporting economy to one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world as a result of prudent and long term policies adopted by the authorities.

    This is what is needed for the Sri Lankan tourist industry if it is to live up to ambitious plans such as 2.5 million tourists in 2012. It needs long term policies drafted with the help of the key industry persons covering all the aspects. Even peace and beautiful beaches would alone attract tourists to this island. But the country would not be able to reap its economic benefit to the full extent.

    The country will one day have to face the price of playing politics with the most important ministry in post-war Sri Lanka. Tourism is indeed a peace business . But only peace would not suffice for a country to lure tourists in the long run. Far sight in getting the machinery moving in a fruitful manner is a must for any industry to prosper.]

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:52:03 GMT

    [Sri Lanka Tourism and CNN storm Cyber Space.

    The launch of the website www.visitsrilanka-2011.com for the CNN global campaign was launched on February 1. This website is part of the global communication campaign launched November 2009. It is interactive and is designed in such a manner that the users are invited them to be a part of this campaign.

    This website is launched with the Visit Sri Lanka Year 2011 and will serve as an impetus to kickstart the campaign. It is a tremendous potential for Sri Lanka Tourism to be partnering with such as international media powerhouse such as CNN. We will ensure that we gain the maximum exposure and potential from the synergies that will be created from this association, said Tourism Minister, Achala Jagoda.

    This is the first time a 360 degree social networking campaign will be launched on CNN through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flicker and a contest whereby the winners get their dream itinerary which includes 9 friends. This contest, carried out in collaboration with Sri Lankan airlines and the industry partners, will be launched on a CNN microsite.

    Speaking on this special collaboration, Junji Sumitani, Sales Director, S.E. Asia, CNN International said, CNN is proud to collaborate with Sri Lanka tourism on their unique travel campaign to showcase the best the country has to offer. CNN s multi-platform campaign brings together on-air and interactive online elements through a dedicated site and social networks to engage users to experience Sri Lanka like never before. This campaign leverages CNN s extensive reach amongst travellers around the world.

    Sri Lanka Tourism recognises the role of social marketing in today s business climate, which will be an important tool in this marketing campaign. High profile Sri Lankans, including entrepreneurs, fashion icons and leading business people are coming onboard to blog for Sri Lanka on Twitter. Sri Lanka Tourism also encourages the general public to blog on Sri Lanka. Interested bloggers are invited to write in to Sri Lanka Tourism if they are keen to be a part of this venture where by they are able to interact via facebook and send e-cards. Post conflict all eyes are on Sri Lanka, and it s never been a better time to showcase the island s scenic imagery via e-cards available on

    local DOT visitsrilanka-2011 DOTcom]

  • 7 Feb 2010 11:53:25 GMT

    Sweden cashes in on Sri Lanka tourism.

    Sweden is yet another new market for the already growing list of inbound tourist markets for Sri Lanka. Swedish charter tour groups have already prioritised to include the Sri Lankan market for winter 2010. Three of the largest charter tour operators in the Scandinavian country will start flying their customers to the paradise island by November 28. The major tour groups in Sweden, Apollo, Fritidsresor and Ving will transport tourists twice a week to Sri Lanka.

    During the forthcoming winter season approximately 7000 Swedish charter tourists (400 per week) are expected to visit the island. They will be departing from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen and reach their holiday destination approximately 12 hours, with a refuelling stop on the way.

    The Scandinavian market has enormous potential and it is a growth market for us in the near future. They have shown tremendous interest in Sri Lanka over the last year. We see the potential for this market to be a strong contender for the top spot in inbound tourism to Sri Lanka , said outgoing Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Bernard Goonetilleke.

    The main attraction for the Swedes are the pristine beaches,beautiful nature, national parks with very rich fauna where one can find herds of elephants, leopards, monkeys and bear. Each package will costs between SEK 10,000 - SEK 11,300 per person, for a two weeks half-board for a double room.

    Currently, Swedish production house Meter Film and Television are in the island on invitation from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Now, they are in Koggala shooting for internationally acclaimed reality show, High School Reunion . The reality programme will showcase the unique facets of the country and down south in particular. High School Reunion will be aired on Kanal 5 rated amongst the top five most watched TV channels in Sweden with an 85% viewership rate.

    We have constant queries from many international production houses that are keen to come down and shoot in Sri Lanka. The unqiue combination that encompasses beaches, vistas, wild life culture and luxury all rolled into a compact offering , says Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Dileep Mudadeniya.

    This follows a significant growth in the overall tourist arrivals for 2009 in a climate of a global economic crisis. The December figures alone registered a 16 percent growth when compared to 2008. More good news for Sri Lanka comes in the form of New York Times and the Daily Candy Washington, both recently declaring Sri Lanka as the No.1 tourist spot for holiday makers.

  • 8 Feb 2010 08:31:29 GMT

    Tourism can help spur post-conflict growth.

    [A study by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has called for efforts to support target communities in post-conflict areas to meet short-term economic goals that would have a positive impact on their lifestyles.

    It also stressed the need to focus on a long-term tourism development plan to generate economic growth at considerable pace.

    The report also points out that new hotel projects are long-term ventures and it would take a longer time for the affected communities to gain from employment and income generation in post-conflict areas.

    Sri Lanka s hospitality industry has set a target of 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016, requiring the development of at least 13,000 new hotel rooms and major investment in large-scale resorts in post-conflict areas.

    `The Eastern coast in particular has the potential to develop with many new investments,` the USAID study said.

    `It also should be in the right tourism products and development planning for the benefit of the local communities,` it said.

    The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has embarked on developing the East coast as it has the best beaches in the country.

    The focus also should be on developing small and medium enterprises as it would generate more employment and more income generation opportunities for people in the region.

    `The aim should be to create entrepreneurship. It is important for the bigger firms to work with people there and to get the communities involved for their own benefit,` the tourism authority says.

    According to Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, in the process of promoting entrepreneurship, local communities themselves should step forward and seize the opportunities.

    Businessmen in the North said the government should be keener on that part of the region too and incentives are required to speed up development.

    According to USAID, `large-scale lodging enterprises and tour companies must encourage and support SME-managed attractions as these add life and variety to the destination helping to attract more visitors`.

    Incidentally, the SLTDA highlights `the need for tour guides and interpreters can also be another new employment possibility for the educated youth in these areas. Car and three-wheeler owners/ drivers can also benefit when tourists want a ride to a close by location.`

    According to a SLTDA report, `In addition to these activities, new projects would provide employment opportunities during the construction phase as buildings, trails and other facilities are being built. Individuals can be employed as labourers, day/ night watchers, security officers, light/ heavy vehicle drivers.`]