In phase one, the focus will be on informing travellers that Sri Lanka is safe and ready to welcome visitors, a step that will also seek to nullify the “negative publicity”, officials said.
“After 15 years, we are going to come up with our first 360-degree campaign. Not a category-target campaign, but a full force campaign.. targeting 12 key markets, India is going to be our biggest market, and our biggest budget will be spent on India, followed by China,” Gajabahu added.
“In September and October, we are going to come up with thematic campaigns, which is about what Sri Lanka is, and what it stands for. A lot of people still think we are just sun and sea. We are an island. We are all in one capsule, minus the snow,” the SLTPB chairman said.
Phase two will involve inspiring global campaigns on three pillars — compact, diversity and authenticity.
Gajabahu cited the example of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign of India’s Ministry of Tourism, which was formed two decades ago, saying, first, the need is to create “a mother brand of Sri Lanka”.
‘Incredible India’, “is a DNA, and not just a tagline”, and what a successful brand it is, he said. “So, that is our task, to ‘create the blueprint, so it won’t change’,” he asserted, adding that governments change, chairman changes, minister changes, but the brand should stay.
“So, wait till August, you will see the campaign come out, and the main campaign in September and October,” an excited Gajabahu said.
Fernando said that as part of the efforts to revive tourism in the cash-strapped nation, a number of new projects were on the anvil.
“In October, we are launching Sri Lanka as a diving destination. There are more than 148 shipwrecks around Sri Lanka. We are starting a skydiving school. We are starting ballooning, we have already four hot air balloons, and we are going to promote it, you can go to Yalla, and have an aerial view of the wild, so there is so much of high-end tourism that can be done,” he said.
In his address, he also added that yacht parks will be starting from places like Galle and Colombo.
He spoke about chartered flights and an ITC hotel coming up soon in Colombo.
Fernando said the Galle Literary Festival is coming up that will take place some days before the Jaipur Literature Festival, and Sri Lanka is expecting to attract those foreigners too who will visit India for the Jaipur Literary Festival.
The debt-ridden nation is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from the British in 1948, due to a shortage of foreign exchange reserves.
The tourism sector is the main source of foreign exchange earnings for cash-strapped Sri Lanka.
However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 severely crippled the tourism sector and was one of the major reasons for Sri Lanka’s economic travails apart from the 2019 Easter bombings that had already impacted inbound tourism in Sri Lanka.
The island nation is now making comprehensive efforts to recover from the crisis and rebuild the economy, the SLTPB said, asserting that it was “ready to conquer any challenge” and “conquer the crisis”.
Cricket legend and the brand ambassador of Sri Lanka Tourism, Sanath Jayasuriya, in an interview with PTI earlier this month had said that to forge the way ahead in the field of tourism, it will take a good mix of both “pinch-hitting” and “long-haul innings”.
Both Fernando and Gajabahu cited cricket analogy to express their optimism on the road to recovery and said, the Asia Cup matches starting in September will “draw in tourists too”.
“Nine matches of the Asia Cup will be played in Sri Lanka, including two India vs Pak matches. It’s a great opportunity to promote our destinations,” Gajabahu said.
Fernando said that Sri Lanka is promoting tourism but with its own sense of identity.
“We are not Singapore, we are not Bangkok, we are not Malaysia, we are not Vietnam, we are Sri Lanka. We have our own identity, and we like to play hard,” the Sri Lankan tourism minister said.
Source – PTI