HOSPITALITY INSIDER – Convincing foreign governments that Sri Lanka is a safe and secure destination for their citizens to visit must be a top priority to rebuild confidence in Sri Lanka as a tourism destination.
This is essential to reverse the trend of declining tourist numbers since the attacks. Hotels have experienced mass cancellations in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, continuing through May and June. Some are reporting cancellations as far forward as December.
Kishu Gomes, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau / Tourism Development Authority, called for confirmation from the government and military forces that the national security of Sri Lanka is assured. Once this is received, Sri Lanka Tourism will talk to foreign governments with confidence to get the travel advisories reversed.
Tourists are continuing to arrive in Sri Lanka; however, the numbers have dropped dramatically. At a press conference, Gomes stated at that the moment there are still around 1,700 tourists are arriving each day. This is down 60 percent on the arrival numbers for this time last year.
Industry leaders are calling for greater communication from the government, to the foreign media, to reassure the world that the situation in Sri Lanka is under control.
Destination Marketing: PR Campaign
The attacks in Sri Lanka, and the subsequent reporting in international news of the advance intelligence received – but not acted on – has caused great damage to Sri Lanka’s reputation as a tourist destination.
This damage will take time to repair and will require a coordinated campaign with the industry and the authorities speaking with one voice and one message.
To tackle this in the short-to-medium term, Gomes plans to bring a global PR agency with experience in handling these types of campaigns on board to change global sentiments about Sri Lanka “from negative, to neutral, to positive.”
As the funding for this has not yet been approved, Gomes would not be drawn on the figures involved, but confirmed it was a “sizeable amount.” He added he has full confidence that the government will approve the funding.
In the longer term, the destination marketing strategy for Sri Lanka will need to be “reshaped”. Gomes stated that he is extremely optimistic about reviving the Sri Lanka tourism brand and is “fully convinced that we will have the support of the entire world to deal with this situation.”