By Dulasha Hettiarachchi
Project Blueprint, the result of a joint partnership between Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a leading global marine conservation organisation with SriLankan Airlines, Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB), Jetwing Hotels and Cinnamon Hotels to protect whales and dolphins of Sri Lankan waters, identified whale watching to be the key for increasing tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka at a recent press briefing.
“All our efforts to put Sri Lanka’s wildlife tourism in the map during the last 10 years got a huge boost when the blue whale came into the equation,” said John Keels Hotels Head of Eco Tourism Chithral Jayathilake.
“I don’t see any reason why Sri Lanka should not promote whale watching,” said WDC representative Andre Sutton, while sharing his experience of encountering five killer whales in Kalpitiya recently.
“People from different parts of the world know about our beaches, our heritage practices and our wildlife but what is needed for them now is something a bit more contemporary. In that perspective I would say we focus on this uniqueness that Sri Lanka has,” said SLTB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala adding to the statement made by Jayathilake.
“Now we need to attract a new segment - the youngsters,” said Athukorala talking about positioning whale watching as a niche market in the minds of youngsters.
“Showing the magic we have in terms of Blue and Sperm whales to youngsters is a very big opportunity; it’s like showing candy to a kid!” added Jayathilake.
Little Adventures facilitator Ashan Senavirathne spoke about the importance of promoting the product as part of domestic tourism. “There’s a lot of potential as people are looking forward to experiencing new things, everybody is a tourist, even the locals.”
Moreover, while talking about meticulous planning and marketing of the product, Athukorala mentioned that he would talk with the private sector regarding identification of the right target market within the top seven markets to promote whale watching in areas such as Mirissa, Kalpitiya and Trinco.
“Once that is done I will develop a communication strategy together with the private sector to reach up to them properly, we will develop this product in to a brand,” he reiterated.
SLTB Chairman also spoke about the necessity of launching a strong digital marketing campaign to market the attraction. “The future of tourism is digital marketing,” he said.
“What the community sees is a livelihood, once they start looking after their whales, the whales are healthy and happy resulting in happy tourists, repeat visits and recommendations at Trip Advisor,” said WDC Lead Vanessa Williams-Grey speaking to Daily Mirror about establishing whale watching to be community-based, responsible and ethical.
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