ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is planning to market the island highlighting experience based tourism and branding targeting mainly millennials in a post Covid growth drive, Sri Lanka’s tourist agency chief said.
“In the future what we will be looking at is experience rather than countries,” Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Tourism Authority, Kimarli Fernando said in an online forum hosted by Advocata, a Colombo-based think tank.
“And we have started to move away and are already looking at our experiences, whether it is wellness, Ayurveda, food, adventure and culture.”
After a 30-year civil war ended in 2009 Sri Lanka became a tourist attraction immediately and there was no marketing strategy was implemented, she said.
“We did not have an integrated campaign of any form for the last possibly 10-11 years,” She said.
“But I think what happened after the war ended in 2009 there was a pent up demand for Sri Lanka. So the tourists came in because it was a forbidden place for a 30 years.” she said.
Analysts say Sri Lanka’s market quickly adapted to the needs of the tourists in much the same way as Vietnam had done after opening, without much state planning or interventions.
Emerging booking engines, such Asiarooms (now defunct) and Agoda had played a key role, they say. Regulation was light handed, allowing the sector to adapt fast to market needs, and ‘regulated’ by review scores.
After years of failed top down planning in many sectors, the government stepped back from central planning and regulation. With light handed regulation, tourist arrivals to Vietnam grew from about million in the early 1990s to 18 million in 2019.
In Sri Lanka also the post-war growth was led by unregistered new hotels, which gave a run to established hotels.
Fernando said the tourism agency has already begun promotions. The marketing strategy targets millennial tourists, which is expected to a large market, in the post Covid period.
“It is a gradual process, and the team is trying to create experience based promoting and branding,” she said.
“Also millennial travellers and people who are not millennial travellers also looks for experience.”
Fernando said the government should also change in order to improve the tourism sector in the future.
“For the last 10 years we couldn’t done is because it was tough,” she explained. “And the government process is very complex. But before Covid we got the cabinet approval for a five-year integrated campaign.
“We have already completed all the terms of reference, now it is going to the tech committee.”
“That change is already there we possibly did not address it enough the change has already come. We got to change the way we do thing,”
Fernando said while the government changes the strategy private sector also has come forward to take the tourism industry forward.
“It is not only the promotion but also the product,” she said. “We can promote this wellness sector in the market but going forward the private sector needs to create good products and services for that.
“Some of you are not ready to accept the change. We will support you. We changed several of the legislations we have had for the past 10-20 years. That is why the registration from informal to formal went up by a34 percent.” (Colombo/Dec18/2020)