- Tourism chief Kishu Gomes urges govt. to appoint single national-level committee to revive industry
- Expresses concerns on appointment of several committees and their composition
- Predicts tourist cancellations to remain over 50 percent next two months
By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s Tourism chief Kishu Gomes urges the government to appoint a single national-level committee consisting of responsible officials and experts to expedite the revival of the tourism industry.
He said the current tendency to appoint several committees by different factions of the government would further worsen prospects for the industry, as the industry is facing a major setback in the aftermath of Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.
“We need to have a national-level committee to address all the tourism industry issues in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks rather than appointing too many committees, which will further complicate the issue,” Gomes told Mirror Business in a brief interview yesterday after returning from Arabian Travel Market held in Dubai.President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who have not been in good terms, held separate meetings with tourism industry stakeholders to discuss the way forward for the industry this week.
Consequently, President Sirisena appointed a Cabinet sub-committee on Monday led by Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga and five other ministers to recommend measures to support the tourism industry, while the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe reportedly has decided to appoint a separate committee to provide security training for hotel employees.
Though Gomes remained confident of the revival the tourism industry within a short period of time, he feared that uncoordinated action could deliver undesired results hampering the industry’s revival chances.
Elaborating on the composure of the proposed national committee, he asserted that national security must be the topmost priority, and hence he proposed the government to appoint an official who is responsible for the national security aspect to the committee.
Secondly, he proposed to appoint an official who’s capable of coordinating the security at tourist sites, hotels, airport and other transport hubs.
“Once the security is assured, we need to get someone on board to work on travel advisories. Unless we get these travel advisories softened or lifted, there will be issues,” he stressed.
Gomes noted that security forces and the government jointly must make a statement on updating the current security situation of the country, as the first step to getting the travel advisories softened or lifted.
“We hear from the army intelligence that the situation is pretty much under control, hence, we have to take that message to the local and global media as well as to the general public,” he added.
He further opined that the committee should also include an expert on the management of Bandaranaike International Airport, a PR expert, marketing and brand communication expert and an industry representative to get inputs to provide concessions.
Gomes stressed that there should be a separate PR strategy and marketing and brand communication strategy to revive the industry clearly stating who should be responsible for the specific tasks.
He noted that Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) is currently receiving the assistance of JWT Sri Lanka and the social media arm of Triad on voluntary basis in PR efforts.
In the coming days, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) plans to officially appoint a PR agency to launch the long-delayed global publicity campaign for Sri Lanka Tourism, subject to Cabinet approval.
JWT has already submitted a proposal in this regard to SLTPB which has received SLTPB board approval.
As Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is finalising the tourist arrival data for April, Gomes noted that since April 21, the country has seen little over 50 percent of tourists cancelling their bookings on average, while key source countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens against travelling to Sri Lanka.
He expects the current trend to continue for a couple of months. However, there are new bookings coming in and some tourists including tourist groups keep visiting the island nation despite travel warnings and security concerns.
“Things are going to be very tough during the next two months. We anticipate over 50 percent cancellations. However, the good thing is that we are receiving new bookings. Everyone is showing their solidarity, love and respect towards us; we need to capitalise on that,” he said.
However, Gomes pointed out that the support of local population is also crucial to rebuild the industry. Hence, he suggested that there should be a communication drive to educate the masses on the importance of tourism, particularly in connection to economic value and employment generation.
Overall, Gomes anticipates the tourist arrivals to decline by 20-30 percent this year compared to last year. The Finance Ministry expects the country to lose between US $750 million to US $1.5 billion in tourism earnings this year.
Sri Lanka was targeting three million tourist arrivals to earn US $5 billion in tourism earnings this year after welcoming a record 2.3 million tourists last year while earning US $4.4 billion in foreign exchange.
As per the latest reports, the death toll of foreign nationals from the Easter Sunday bomb attacks has increased to 42. Bodies of five foreign nationals are yet to be identified.
Occupancy rate down 70% countrywide: THASL
By Sheain Fernandopullle
In the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terror attacks, the occupancy rate of hotels has declined by 70 percent countrywide, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte said.
Speaking to Mirror Business, Ukwatte said a substantial percentage of booking cancellation was reported because of the travel advisories issued by various foreign countries following the incident.
“The hotel industry is in jeopardy and we are faced with serious issues.”
“Hence, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called on a meeting with heads of hotel industry to discuss the matter on May 29 where it was decided to appoint a Cabinet sub-committee,” Ukwatte said.
Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers has decided to appoint a Cabinet sub-committee led by Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga to recommend measures to support the tourism industry consequent to what transpired following the Easter Sunday bomb attacks.
Nevertheless, countries like the UK, the US, Saudi Arabia, China and India have issued travel advisories over the prevailing situation in the country.