Sri Lanka can earn more targeting experiences, sustainable tourism

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tourism sector must move from promoting products and start promoting experience unique to the island’s culture and history with a focus on sustainability, a marketer said.

“We have to package Sri Lanka in tourism in a set of niches. We cannot do one-night stand tourism anymore,” Omar Shaqib Khan from Global Leadership Coach and Founder – Sensei International said at an event in Colombo to commemorate World Tourism day.

Citing official reports he said the average spend of tourists in Sri Lanka is 550 dollars per week.

“The way we have done is everyone spends one night in one destination and moves on to another. They are not coming to see the country.”

He says the way forward is to provide niche packages that would create experiences unique to travelers.

“We have to package Sri Lanka in to niches- cultural Sri Lanka, historical Sri Lanka, colonial Sri Lanka, hikers Sri Lanka, etc., because for each of those niches, enthusiasts will pay,” Khan said.

“But if we are only offering only products (hotels) so what? Everyone is doing. To all these must be executed.”

Along with experiences, he says the services mut follow a ‘gold standard’ from the smallest level to the highest to support the niches in the country.

“There is something called gold standard. Hospitality is warm, caring and a desire to help and Sri Lankans are the most hospitable but services are hard deliveries,” Khan said

Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority had earlier planned to attract 3 million tourists with a revenue of 7 billion US dollars by 2027.

However, in the interim budget for 2022 President Ranil Wickremesinghe has set a target of welcoming 2.5 million travelers by the end of 2023 with high spenders.

This year it is expecting to receive one million arrivals and earn 1.8 billion dollars.

“In order to earn the upper echelons of earning we have to aim for the gold standards. Its a way of every perception points from arrival to departure and everything in between,” Khan said.

“Meeting or receiving expectations consistently and then hospitality is the icing on the cake but not the cake.”

Officials also called on the government to focus on sustainable tourism.

“As an island nation with extraordinary biodiversity, Sri Lanka is extremely vulnerable to the adverse effects of unsustainable tourism,” Christian Skoog, acting Resident Coordinator for UN and Country Representative for UNICEF – Sri Lanka and Maldives.

He explained that many countries looked at their tourism practices to revive the sector post pandemic.

“Sri Lanka has faced a heavy blow but the task we now face in reviving the sector also presents us with an opportunity to address some of these challenges

These include overt tourism and other unsustainable practices, contribution to the climate change, pollution, a loss of biodiversity and a lack of inclusion.”

Skoog says sustainable tourism offerings is no long a choice

“Costs incurred in adopting practices that benefit the environment and community need to be looked at as investments.”

He says this will help to differentiate Sri Lanka overall. (Colombo/Sep28/2022)


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