Tourist industry awaits good winter season

The winter season has always been a great time for Sri Lanka tourism with tourists ranging between 200,000 and 250,000 visiting the country and the performance of the industry has been exceptionally good since the end of the conflict in 2009, said Head of Brand Marketing, Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts and Vice President, John Keells Group, Dileep Mudadeniya.

He said the high tourist arrival trend has been continuing during the past 10 years with the peak months in arrivals from December to February contributing a major share to the overall arrivals and revenue of the industry.The Western market dominates arrivals during the winter season followed by China especially during the month of February, the holiday season in China.

“The current infrastructure is quite adequate with the number of hotel rooms to cater to the growth anticipated in the coming years,” Mudadeniya said while adding that the number of arrivals this year would be close to around 2.3 million.The final arrival figure will depend on the performance of the industry during the last four months of the year.

“So far the situation has been under control and there is no reason for travellers to panic. The industry is hopeful that the situation will stabilize and normalcy restored soon,” Mudadeniya said.The number of tourist arrivals from January to September this year recorded a 11.6 percent growth with arrivals of 1.7 million compared to 1.55 million during the same period last year.

Travel experts and industry personnel said the recognition the country received from Lonely Planet is a boost for the industry which is aiming at three million arrivals by 2020 with a revenue exceeding US$ 5 billion.Sri Lanka was named the best country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet. The country’s improved infrastructure such as transport links along with the new hotels and events that run throughout the year contributed to the recent recognition by the world renowned travel publication.

Destination marketing

However, industry experts said the country should not simply continue to bask in this glory but should carry on with aggressive destination marketing campaigns making use of the accolade to position the country as a top destination for travel and tourism in all key markets.“The recognition by Lonely Planet is an excellent opportunity for Sri Lanka to boost the growth of the industry. We need to build on this image with the campaigns to take the ranking global,” Mudadeniya said.

Sri Lanka Tourism is on the throes of launching the digital and marketing campaigns in key markets to spur arrivals to the country.“We need a strong destination marketing campaign in key markets such as India, China, UK, Germany and France. If we get the numbers from these markets it is enough,” Mudadeniay said.

However, according to industry experts certain gaps need to be filled to take the industry forward while moves are in place to launch campaigns to drive growth in the industry.“There are plans to improve conditions at all touch points from the airport to providing WIFI services to tour guides and even providing sound sanitary facilities,” Mudadeniya said while adding that the industry should focus on attracting the high end segment of travellers.

Adequate hotel rooms

He said there is no issue with the number of hotel rooms as more hotels are being built across the country and neither is there an issue with transportation links as there are scheduled and charter flights operating from the airport. Sri Lanka has been a sought-after destination for discerning travellers for its hospitality, pristine beaches, wild life, religious and cultural sites and events throughout the year.

Lonely Planet author Ethan Gelber in the Best in Travel 2019 book states, “Already notable to intrepid travellers .... for its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, its rich and accessible wildlife, its growing surf scene and its people who defy all odds by their welcome and friendliness after decades of civil conflict, this is a country revived.”