Sri Lanka tourism industry should focus on niche: officials

Oct 12, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tourism future lies in focusing on niche products and not in the mass market, given its small size and excess capacity in competing destinations, industry officials said. The country’s target of attracting 2.5 million visitors and adding 25,000 rooms by 2016 might not be achievable nor desirable, they said.

“Sri Lanka is a small country, densely populated, with lean infrastructure,” said Malin Hapugoda, managing director of Aitken Spence Hotels, a big operator in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“So we can’t grow in numbers like Thailand. We need to be aware of our carrying capacity – and assess the potential impact of 2.5 million tourists on the country.”

Hapugoda said the government target of visitor numbers and building rooms was a target to aim for but might not be achievable.

“With all the constraints we face it will be virtually impossible to attain but it’s a target people will go,” he told the annual conference of the Institute of Certified Professional Managers.

Hapugoda said Aitken Spence’s strategy was to target niche market, high-yielding tourists, given the country’s small size and its bio-diversity attractions.

“We should use the