Sri Lanka tourism destination marketing seen inadequate
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tourism industry needs to market the destination more aggressively given slowing forward bookings from key traditional markets like Europe, but the numbers of Chinese and Russian travellers are rising, a tourism forum was told.
Without more marketing to make travellers aware of the destination, initiatives to open up the country like open skies policies would have limited impact, said Jameson Wong, Director Business Development for the Asia-Pacific region at ForwardKeys, a consultancy.
“Sri Lanka has had a stellar year-to-date performance,” Wong told the the Asia Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference held in Colombo in partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourism Club.
The number of tourists visiting the island has grown at double the rate of international tourist arrivals to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
“It is regional markets that are fuelling this growth,” Wong said.
Europe accounted for 38% of tourists and the Middle East a 23.5% share with numbers from east and south Asia projected to grow strongly, he said, according to ForwardKeys monitoring of actual bookings already issued for travel during the November 2016 to April 2017 period.
Wong said the number of Chinese visiting Sri Lanka had grown by 29% in the year-to-date and was projected to grow by 10.2% in the next six months, faster than to the rest of the world and to the Asia-Pacific region while visitors to the Maldives are expected to fall.
Another noticeable trend was the returns of Russians.
“Russia is back,” Wong said. “Forward bookings from Russia to the world is stagnant and to Europe only four percent but to South East Asia in the next six months bookings are up by 19%.
”Not only are Russians coming back but they are coming back stronger. It’s time to look at the Russian market.”
Wong said airline capacity to Sri Lanka had increased during the year but was expected to fall although this could be because of the partial closure of the sole international airport fo repairs.
Forward bookings inbound to Sri Lanka from Europe from November to April 2017 at just 1.3% was lacklustre, Wong also said.
“West European markets lack booking interest. The average booking time is 110 days, so that means it’s till not too late to activate this market – to influence travel from Europe to Sri Lanka.”
“The problem is destination marketing,” Wong said. “If nobody knows about Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka has a lot to offer, there would be no point in opening up the freedom of the skies. A lot more must be done on destination marketing to spur exponential growth.”
(COLOMBO, Nov 29, 2016)