Lal de Alwis
By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka is to expect 100, 000 tourists to fly in from Japan in 2011 due to renewed interest in the country and the 'Visit Sri Lanka 2011' campaign.
Japan, a strong and longstanding development partner of Sri Lanka is keen on developing the ties between the two countries and is encouraged by the stable political conditions to persuade more Japanese to come to Sri Lanka.
Expecting a 25 per cent increase in arrivals this year in comparison to 2009, Vice Patron of Japan- Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association (JASTECA) Lal de Alwis said that with the demand expected in 2011, the Association has targeted an approximate 10, 000 tourists to visit the country per month. With the given statistics from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority the total number of Japanese tourists in 2009 has been 10, 926. This year, between January and September the number of tourists from Japan amounted to 10, 497.
Even though with the given numbers achieving 100,000 next year might look remote, de Alwis stated that the Association feels that it is in fact a possible and that it will only be too easy to achieve.
"We have received increasing inquiries about the condition of Sri Lanka from a growing list of travellers from Japan. With that and the awareness programmes we hope to conduct within the next few months we are confident that the target of 10, 000 tourists per month from the said country is a possibility," de Alwis said.
JASTECA in collaboration with the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS) Japan has organised a special programme for tourism promotion in Japan to be conducted in December this year. The training programme which will be held from 5 -11 December will see the participation of key personnel from the hotel sector, travel agent sector as well as the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. De Alwis stated that a total of 20 are expected to participate in the event; out of which 10 have already confirmed. Representative from the likes of John Keells Holdings, Jetwings and Aitken Spence is set to participate in the programme.
Tentative programme includes orientation, guidance and workshops on the current situation and issues of tourism, business in Japan - i.e. taste and expectation to tourism, rules and requirements of tourism business in Japan, points of receiving tourists and how to attract Japanese tourists.
"The all important TQM or Total Quality Management in services industries of Japan which has received international recognition will also be shared with the local participants. Under this our local tourism/ leisure industry operators would learn about the definition of service, quality of service and its characteristics and TQM promotion in service industries," de Alwis said.
An experience tour, discussions with key Japanese business persons in the industry and a presentation is also a part of the itinerary.
The programme would help participants link up with important business clients which could get them prepared for the upcoming seasons.
Expressing Japanese investors' key interest, he observed that the manufacturing sector - especially the ceramic industry where Japanese companies such as Noritake is doing well in Sri Lanka, tops the list. The local apparel sector due to its price competitiveness, electronics and gadgets where Japan has shown excellence for a number of years and hospitality industry are also key focuses of Japanese investors.
For the usual Japanese tourists what interests them in the country is the hill side, tea factories, the culture (Tooth Relic in Kandy, ruins in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa) and the sea side resorts.
"Most Japanese travel to the Maldives to enjoy the sun, sand and beach. But in Sri Lanka a traveller can get the equal if not a better experience coupled with much more," de Alwis said, "there is what we call a multicultural touch in the country."
Japanese tourists are now free to roam around the country with the Japanese government taking off the travel advisory against the North and East two weeks back. "It is an ideal opportunity to join such assignments and familiarise with markets such as Japan which will no doubt immerge as a destination Sri Lanka will focus on soon."