Political crisis risks derailing Sri Lanka tourism campaign

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s political crisis should be resolved as soon as possible to enable the launch of a global promotional campaign in March 2019, the head of an industry body said.

"We’re planning to launch our global media campaign in March," The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka President Sanath Ukwatte said.

"To arrive at that, we need the tourism authorities to function," he said. "We need to call for tenders and evaluate various submissions by advertising agencies.

"That is why we’re telling the government to get on with business," he said.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a political crisis after President Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. The Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament has said that two no confidence motions were passed against him.

The crisis had led to travel advisories and negative news about legislators loyal to Rajapaksa rioting Parliament.

Hoteliers have said there have been cancellation or re-scheduling of conferences and meetings.

Ukwatte said that with Sri Lanka topping the Lonely Planet list for 2019, and the ‘So Sri Lanka’ theme being well received by international media, the global campaign has to be launched soon.

Otherwise, he said that there will not be enough tourists to fill the increasing number of hotel rooms entering the national supply.

"Capacity is increasing not in phase with the arrivals," he said. "In order to increase the arrivals to meet the capacity we need to advertise and promote Sri Lanka."

However, ambassadors from European told a Tourism Leaders’ Summit in 2018 that their citizens are less willing to travel in Sri Lanka hotels because they are more expensive compared to other regional offerings.

Sri Lankan hotel standards also need to greatly improve, they said.

In 2017, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka grew 3.2 percent from a year earlier, while formal hotel room supply grew at 6.1 percent.

However, the informal sector and regis tered small businesses such as home stays and guest houses have nearly 50 percent market share in the accommodation business.

The ambassadors said this is normal given current global travel trends and the price points of Sri Lankan hotels. (Colombo/Nov27/2018)