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Sri Lanka ups tourist arrival target to three million this year

2018-09-13 00:01:41
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Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga launches ‘Island Escapes’ tactical promo campaign in the presence of Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Chairman Kumar De Silva
Pic by Kushan Pathiraja

 

By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka Tourism has upped the tourist arrival target to three million arrivals from 2.5 million this year, while eyeing four million tourist arrivals next year, as the new tourism promotional campaigns are getting off the ground.


Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga yesterday officially announced the ‘Island Escapes’ tactical promotional campaign, which is to kick off in three key source markets of Sri Lanka – India, China and the Middle-East – under the first phase, aiming to transform Sri Lanka to a 365-day holiday destination.


The ‘Island Escapes’ promotional campaign is scheduled to kick off from September 15 this year, with the objective of increasing tourist arrivals during the lean months from September to November and April to June, with special discount packages.


The Tourism and Christian Affairs Ministry has a budget to spend Rs.65 million in the first phase of the campaign, with an objective to reach over 10 million audiences on social and other digital channels. 


J. Walter Thompson Sri Lanka and GroupM Sri Lanka have been chosen to carry out the campaign. 

Addressing the launch event, the upbeat minister said, “If you see by the end of this year, the figures will change dramatically, as we are now getting into the promotional campaigns. We are now heading into the higher bracket.


We will be able to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 2.5 million to three million during the upcoming months. We hope to go up to four million next year; for that, we have to find ways and means as to how we can get there.”


Speaking to Mirror Business he said that the US $ 3.5 million digital marketing campaign in India, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom would kick off this October as the Cabinet has already awarded the contracts to marketing agencies.


Meanwhile, Amaratunga revealed that the new country branding for Sri Lanka Tourism would be unveiled at ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) in March 2019, revising the earlier target to launch the new branding at the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London in November this year.


The Cabinet of Ministers last week approved the Cabinet proposal presented by Amaratunga to select agencies to develop the new country branding and to carry out a promotional campaign to promote the new brand.


However, due to the time constraints, the new country branding along with the branding promotion is expected to be launched at ITB Berlin in March 2019, which would be followed by a much-anticipated global promotional campaign.


Amaratunga pointed out that by launching the new country branding at the world’s largest tourism trade fair would give the widest publicity to Sri Lanka tourism. 


Speaking at the gathering, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Managing Director Sutheash Balasubramaniam pointed out that 50 percent of the year was termed as off season, leading to low occupancy. Hence, he stressed that changing this perception, which was promoted by foreign tour agencies, is a must to double the number of tourist arrivals and yield by 2020; it was also acknowledged in the 2017-2020 tourism strategy. 


He noted that the ‘Island Escapes’ tactical promotional campaign was the first step towards transforming Sri Lanka to a 365-day holiday destination.


However, Balasubramaniam emphasised that Sri Lanka doesn’t intend to become a cheap destination but would offer fairly attractive prices during the lean periods to curtail the low occupancy levels. 


The promotional campaign is a collaboration between the Tourism Ministry and key tourism stakeholder associations, including tour operators, airlines and hoteliers. 


As part of the campaign running between September and November 2018, the participating hotels are expected to offer several attractive packages, including a four-day/three-night package at US $ 99 million.


Amaratunga noted that these rates are a 40-50 percent discount on the current rates.


In addition, 15-20 airlines in the region, including SriLankan Airlines, Emirates and Qatar, have also come on-board to offer special rates on airfares. 


“We have seen countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam doing this kind of thing very successfully and based on the success of the campaign, we will fine-tune it next year,” the minister said. 


Sri Lanka has attracted 1.58 million tourists with a 12.5 percent year-on-year growth during the first eight months of the year.  

 


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