Sri Lanka hoteliers cannot work in isolation, says Keells Deputy Chairman


Sep 10, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka hoteliers alone cannot make the industry to grow but with collaboration we can, Ajit Gunewardene, deputy chairman of John Keells Holdings said.

“Tourism is a massive industry and we have barely begun. Before we destroy what is great, we believe this is the time to create something unique and sustainable for the country and the industry in the long-term,” Gunewardene said at a media briefing.

“We learnt that our competitors are our partners and we want to add value to their products. That’s what all stakeholders should do,”

“We have heavily invested in Sri Lanka. Our view is that for the industry to grow as a whole we can’t work in isolation,” he said.

“We believe that the direction that Sri Lanka decides to take in this regard will have an enormous impact on our investments. Therefore we would like to influence this direction and share knowledge.”

Gunewardene said as the private sector owns the bigger potion of the tourism industry in the island, the sector should not look on to government for each and everything but create value together.

“As a private sector-driven industry I don’t think it’s correct for us to look to the Government to do our work. ”

“We will partner the public sector. We want the public sector to have an overall policy framework under which we can operate.”

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 18.7 percent to 166,610 in August 2015 from a year earlier, driven by arrivals from China and India, data showed.

In the eight months of 2015 arrivals were up 17.1 percent to 1,172,465.

The island’s tourism promotion bureau is aggressively pushing advertising and target marketing campaigns to attract more visitors to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka tourism is continuously promoting eight wonders of experience that a tourist can enjoy in the Indian Ocean Island which is Pristine, Heritage, Wild, Thrills, Bliss, Scenic, Essence and Festival. Tourist promotion experts however do not agree with this concept and say the country can be promoted for its exclusive experience and mix of culture.

Gunewardene says Sri Lanka’s tourism promotion should adopt smarter ways and move towards digital promotions to attract more tourists in to the Indian Ocean Island.

“Today’s promotional strategies are not the old-fashioned above-the-line advertising media promotions. That in fact tends to be a waste of money.”

“What really works is below-the-line promotion of the country.”

Below the line promotion includes social media campaigns, email campaigns, online completions and blogging etc.

Gunawardene said these promotion should not be aggressive since the country is not yet ready to supply rooms for that bigger arrivals.

“The country and the infrastructure can’t cater to massive volumes of tourists overnight. So our promotional campaign has to be managed in such a manner that benefits reach the table.”

“We can of course do things better and raise the bar, that’s what we should do collectively.”