From left: Inbound Tour Operators President Harith Perera, SriLankan Airlines Holidays Manager Buddhika Hewawasam, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Chairman Kumar de Silva, Tourism Minister John Amaratunga , Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes, Managing Director Charmarie Maelge and Sri Lanka Tourist Hotels Association Vice President and Colombo City Hotel Association President M. Shanthikumar – Pic by Lasantha Kumara
Unveils special promotional campaign to woo tourists from India
Minister says Sri Lanka will concentrate on Indian market
Official delegation to visit India end of the month to boost promotional activities
Based on campaign success, similar promotional activities to follow in China and Middle East markets
SLTPB Chief confident Sri Lanka will end up with only 20,000 fewer tourists compared to 2018
SLAITO backs initiative to increase tourist volume
By Charumini de Silva
The tourism and airline industry yesterday unveiled a special four-month promotion campaign to woo tourists from Sri Lanka’s largest source market, India, following the Easter Sunday terror attack setback.
Sri Lanka Tourism, in collaboration with Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), and SriLankan Airlines, will offer a total of 15 packages, with a minimum package starting from $180 per person. The industry targets 32 flights per week from 11 destinations in India to Sri Lanka, with an average of 150 passengers per week.
The offer is up and running from 10 June till 30 November, and is available for reservations through travel agents network in India. In addition, national carrier SriLankan Airlines has rolled out a comprehensive package which includes airfare, hotel accommodation on B&B basis, transport as specified in the itinerary, and the service fee of the tour operator.
In a situation where Sri Lanka is linked with fear in the minds of foreigners, Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said it was critical to launch this type of tourist package, while insisting Sri Lanka Tourism will concentrate on India more than any other market.
“This Indian package is very important for several reasons; firstly it is our neighbour, and our political relationships are very strong. Secondly, we have so much to offer culturally besides our other attractions. Sri Lanka Tourism will concentrate on India more than any other market, and that is our best bet at this point. We are confident that this package will undoubtedly attract more Indians to come to Sri Lanka,” he told journalists in Colombo.
He also suggested that Sri Lanka would be the best place to avoid the height of summer in India, which runs until August,while enjoying a holiday.
“I hope this package will bring us good results,” the Minister said.
Amaratunga said Sri Lanka Tourism officials are also planning to make a visit to India towards the end of this month to step up promotional activities in India.
Further, he said Sri Lanka Tourism is in discussion with Indian travel authorities to commence ferry services from Rameshwaram.
According to statistics, India is Sri Lanka’s largest tourism market, which accounted for 18.2% of 424,887 arrivals last year, an increase of 10.5% from a year earlier.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes said that based on the success of this campaign, they would extend the promotion campaign to China, followed by the Middle East.
“An official delegation is heading to China this Saturday to intensify our promotional activities,” he added.
Considering that many countries have softened their adverse travel advisories, as well as all the promotional offerings and PR campaigns to be executed, Gomes believes Sri Lanka will end up with no more than 20,000 fewer arrivals, compared to 2018’s final tourist arrivals figure.
Sharing more details on the Indian tour packages, Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau (SLCB) Chairman Kumar De Silva said there will be 15 different offerings, as there are five different packages in three varying categories, ranging from standard to superior to deluxe.
“This is a great opportunity, as it is the first time that the tour operators, hotels, and airline have offered such low rates to the tourists,” he added.
De Silva also noted that MasterCard, which has over 180 million cardholders in India,has come on board to promote these packages through its well-connected channels.
SLAITO President Harith Perera also backed the initiative to boost tourist arrivals to the country, where they expect 32 flights per week from 11 destinations in India, with an average of about 120 to 150 passengers per day.
“With this package we are on a volume game. If this works out, we can later work on the price game. Right now, we are in dire need of tourists coming to Sri Lanka,” he pointed out.
Perera said that post-Easter Sunday terror attacks, average occupancy rates have dropped to 5-10%.
SriLankan Airlines Manager Holidays Buddhika Hewawasam said the synergy of SLAITO, THASL and the national carrier had always worked out for the country during crisis situations.
“Tourism growth is very much interlinked with the airline’s strategy as well. SriLankan Airlines management is very keen on extending similar packages to other destinations,as the need of the hour is to revive the industry,” he added.
According to Hewawasam, the airline is enjoying a load factor of about 80% from Indian traffic at present, and the expectation is to keep up the momentum to attract more tourists to Colombo.
- John Amaratunga wants more entertainment for tourists
Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga yesterday offered his support to hoteliers to recommence nightclub and casino operations to attract more young tourists to Sri Lanka, and provide them with a wider range of enjoyable activities.
“Our casinos are no doubt an attraction for many Indians, but the complaint that I get from the Indian authorities often is that there isn’t enough entertainment in the city of Colombo and outstations. This is a key reason why most Indians go to other competitive destinations like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Younger people look for entertainment in the night, although others want to enjoy at the later part of the day,” the Minister told journalists in Colombo yesterday.
Amaratunga insisted that late-night entertainment activities are very important, particularly for the younger generation, and is an area that the industry should work on to woo tourists.
“I have been telling The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) that they should start their nightclubs. At least now they should think of it, because this is one way of attracting the younger Indian tourists to come to Sri Lanka,” he pointed out.
The Minister said the Colombo hotels had to limit their entertainment business, due to continuous misbehaviour by locals.
“These clubs were functioning very well, but those bad elements are no longer visiting the nightclubs. In those days, young boys from the political leaders patronised the venues, and misbehaved and picked fights every day, but those people are no more, and I think it’s time we start it again,” he urged.