Big names needed to bring tourists: Aitken Spence MD

5 November 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sustained promotion and consistent branding of Sri Lanka as a holiday destination are essential if the country is to overhaul its tourism industry, Rajan Brito, the Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of the conglomerate Aitken Spence, has said.

Speaking during a wide-ranging interview he gave to the global publishing, research and consultancy firm Oxford Business Group (OBG), Brito said Sri Lanka had failed to boost arrival numbers after the war due to a combination of missed opportunities and complacency.

“By not encouraging the major tour operators to come in, and by not encouraging charters, we have failed to draw the commitments that would then bring the numbers,” he said. “We have sufficient funds bolstered by a tourism levy, but these have not been properly utilized. All of this has hindered us and not given tourism a strong appearance.” 

Brito told OBG that having the industry’s major players on board was essential for growth. “It is great to have big names like Shangri La, Grand Hyatt and Marriott because they bring the numbers and promote the destination,” he said. “You need big tour operators to do the marketing and to drive the numbers.”
The full interview with Brito will appear in The Report: Sri Lanka 2016, OBG’s first report on the country’s economy. The landmark publication will contain a detailed, sector-by-sector guide for investors, alongside contributions from leading personalities, including President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Hayleys Chairman and CEO Mohan Pandithage, Dialog Axiata CEO Hans Wijayasuriya and Softlogic Holdings Chairman Ashok Pathirage.
 
The impact of infrastructure gaps on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, especially when it comes to connectivity, is another topical issue explored in the interview. 
“We see a major shift coming about when and if an airport comes on-line in Trincomalee, as this opens up the entire east coast for visitors,” Brito told OBG.
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