Strict enforcement needed to protect Sri Lanka tourism hotspots: expert
ECONOMYNEXT – Strict enforcement of rules and effective management is needed to protect Sri Lankan tourism hotspots like national parks and archaeological sites from over-visitation, an Australian expert said.
"Over tourism is a somewhat awkward term, and describes the situation in which a particular destination exceeds its carrying capacity, either in physical or social terms,” said Andrew Fairley, former deputy chairman of Tourism Australia, the Australian tourism promotion outfit.
He drew on his experience in maintaining the sustainability of potentially fragile tourism destinations at a public address by organised by the Australian High Commission and Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and Australia’s private sector development programme Market Development Facility.
Over tourism is a familiar theme in Sri Lanka, with popular hotspots like Yala National Park and Sigiriya facing challenges related to overcrowding and the consequent deterioration of the natural asset, a statement said.
“It results in a deterioration of the tourism experience for both visitors and locals, and if it continued unchecked, could cause serious brand damage,” it quoted Fairley as saying.
Fairley highlighted the need for an assessment, of carrying capacity, access and behaviours, as well strict enforcement of boundaries in this regard through effective tourism management.
Establishing “One Voice” in tourism would further aid this goal and prevent the potential negative impacts on Sri Lanka’s tourism assets.
Fairley also said research, consolidation and sustainability is essential for tourism.
Core-market analysis, effective marketing and communication, and the importance of optimising tourist visitation were some of the key areas Fairley touched on in his talk on “Staying ahead in global tourism marketing: How core-market research and outreach can deliver a sustainable advantage”.
Fairley recently worked with the government of Sri Lanka and tourism authorities on the Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020 (TSP), released last year.
Fairley explored elements from the TSP, drawing parallels with Tourism Australia’s strategic journey, which began with consolidation.
“Underpinning the success of any system reform is the implementation of an efficient and effective governance model,” said Fairley, referring to how Australian tourism was segmented into four separate bodies until 2003, when the government consolidated them and establish Tourism Australia – creating “One Voice”.
The structural and governance renovation was successful in marketing ‘Brand Australia’ through proactive government involvement that concurrently enabled and enlivened the private sector.
Fairley also spoke of the importance of timely and accurate core-market data to travel industry decision-making.
In the case of Australia, Fairley highlighted three of Australia’s biggest inbound tourism markets – the UK, China and India, highly relevant to Sri Lanka as well.
For these, Tourism Australia carried out a detailed analysis of demand and supply. The analysis of drivers led to the creation of Australia’s “experience pillars”, which highlight Australia’s strongest consumer assets.
“There are many niche opportunities [in Sri Lanka] as well which are comprehensively identified in your tourism strategy,” Fairley said.
“These include health and well-being, ecotourism, and the MICE market. The challenge is to determine which have priority. Success requires you to focus on a few core strategies and do them well.”
Converting research findings into actual implementation involves marketing and communication outreach.
This includes addressing the optimal distribution model and acknowledging the importance of agents, wholesalers and aggregators within the process.
(COLOMBO, 25 July, 2018)