The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) that has been dogged with financial misappropriation to the value of Rs.750 million from the earlier regime that cut across through political pressure, has been given a new life by the appointment of 29 top professionals, purely on merit, under the direction of Minister Navin Dissanayake, said SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala.
Athukorala was addressing the new Ambassador and High Commissioner appointees to the Foreign Affairs Ministry at the Banadaranayake Centre for International Studies at the BMICH.
Athukorala said, “Only once the new ad agencies, PR agencies- market wise, digital marketing companies are selected under the government procurement process adhered that we can practice professional destination marketing. Currently we are like going for war without the proper armoury - just attending trade fairs, inviting journalists and initiating travel agents to come to Sri Lanka which might generate the numbers but it does not build imagery and brand equity in the targeted travellers. There must be a healthy balance between the Push and Pull.”
“We are just skewed to push for the last four months. To be honest, I feel sad for Sri Lanka Tourism where the private sector has invested billions of rupees on infrastructure whilst global brand building has not happened in a balanced manner but that is the reality. But I commit to you that I will make the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau the best destination marketing unit in the world.”
On a question posed on the development of a new market like China in the previous regime the Chairman acknowledged the good work done but the unpaid bills and poor governance have taken away the shine off the good work.
“Last Saturday we had suppliers banging the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing on payments due. We are now trying to reconcile the situation and neutralize it before the world’s largest travel fair- BITE begins in Beijing next week. There is a threat that a banner will be put by the suppliers who are demanding their dues.” he said.
“It is amidst all this chaos, I salute the current market heads at the SLTPB who are driving the ‘Push Strategy’ in the current markets. I commend the work they do and what they have done for the last couple of years. It’s not easy working without a permanent finance director, given that the previous had its passport impounded due to governance and contract renewal not taking place. But the good news is that we have selected one of the top officials from the Finance Ministry for this purpose and I see light at the end of the tunnel.
I together with the board of directors will make the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau one of the best destination marketing government entities globally. But the private sector must have patience for another three months, given that it has waited six years for the current private sector-savvy operating model.”