Ways to improve Sri Lanka’s tourism product

30 June 2017 10:09 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As usual, with the drop in arrivals in the month of May and June, it’s the time to correct the shortcomings to better our services and plan for the 2017/18 winter season in Europe. We consider the months November to mid-April as the high season.
Following are what we can do for the future of Sri Lanka tourism.
nTo have more counters to issue entrance tickets for the months of November to mid-April in the following national parks – Yala, Udawalawe and Horton Plains. I have waited for more than 45 minutes to get the entrance tickets from the counter after leaving the hotel at 5:00 a.m. and reaching Yala at 5:30 a.m. to experience a long queue, as the ticket counter opens at 6:00 a.m. and only one officer issues tickets. When such delays take place, the tourists feel the tour guide that accompanies the group or the chauffer is inefficient as every minute of the tourist after arriving in the country is precious for them and should not waste time in entrance counters. We surely can create job opportunities with tourists paying US $ 20 as entrance fees plus the jeep hire. I suggest for Horton Plains there could be a ticket counter also in Nuwara Eliya so the tourists can buy the day before and leave early morning, which will reduce the congestion at the entrance, so that they can present the ticket and proceed for the walk.
nImproving the existing toilette facilities and building more toilettes in Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura (Cultural Triangle). As the visitors are prohibited of photographing Sigiriya frescoes, the part of the entrance ticket the tourists receive should have a print of the frescoes. Now it’s in the part the tour guide gives to the tour company for accounting purposes. The tourists like to have these tickets as memories of their visit.
nI think with the US $ 318 million given by the Indian government to develop our railways, it’s time we modernize our entire network. This will ease our traffic congestion today. To leave Kandy from the city centre to Peradeniya takes more than 45 minutes to one hour. A luxury train like 1970s’ Hitachi, the fully air conditioned restaurant, could operate daily from Kandy to Badulla. 
One should come and check the Kandy railway station for the 8:47 a.m. train daily. Hundreds of tourists (backpackers) and tour groups to Nawalapitiya or Nuwara Eliya travel in the third class and second class, which are packed. A luxury train can earn more than US $ 20 per tourist. The Expo Rail and Rajagdhani have very limited – only two compartments – and most of the time it’s fully booked.
nDeveloping the Trinco airport to an international standard, as we could have some flights during the period May to end-October. This will give a boost to the beach hotels in Trincomalee and Pasikudah and a one-and-a-half hour’s drive to Habarana. The tourists can visit the cultural triangle and the national parks of Minneriya and Kaudulla or the Eco-Park and proceed to Kandy, to Nuwera Eliya, to Colombo and depart from Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake.
nA news report recently stated Tourism Minister John Amaratunga saying that the money spent on foreign trips by the authorities brings no results. I wish to give this idea to the new foreign minister to have an embassy official in every European and other important countries to promote tourism and investments to Sri Lanka. These officials have to be very knowledgeable and trained and speaking the respective foreign languages, who could give presentations in forums and to organise promotional events. The veteran experienced national tourist guide lectures could help or go to the designated embassy on short-term assignments.
nThe airport to have documentary films about Sri Lanka with tourist attractions and investment opportunities in Sri Lanka in the transit lounges. The Board of Investment can also have magazines and brochures with incentives given to investors. The airport in my view is the first impression and a place to promote the country.
nSri Lanka Tourism authorities should have a representative to visit places of interest to tourists and observe what they can do to better the services and work closely with the Wildlife Department, etc.
We must also be careful not to cover the price ourselves so as to be competitive in the region with our services and the entrance ticket pricing. We also have to be innovative with our marketing and promotional campaigns around the globe.
(Neomal Eric De Alwis is a past President of Sri Lanka Institute of National Tourist Guide Lecturers. He can be reached via dealwiseric@yahoo.com)

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