By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Amidst continuing delays to the digital and global tourism campaigns and stagnant tourist arrivals, a leading tourism industry figure stressed that a promotional drive from the government is the need of the hour to support the good work the government has done in strengthening foreign relations and national reconciliation.
“Arrivals so far have been purely due to the safety and stability here. The efforts of the government to build reconciliation and relationships with other countries have helped a lot,” Jetwing Group Chairman Hiran Cooray told Mirror Business yesterday.
Arrivals during the first 11 months of this year have grown at 2.5 percent year-on-year to 1.87 million tourists, a significant drop in growth compared to the double-digit increases seen in the past seven years.
“The country hasn’t been properly marketed. A destination marketing campaign is needed,” Cooray stressed, noting that while well-established brands have some capability to attract guests with their own marketing activities, many other tourism enterprises are helpless.
He is not the only tourism expert to call for the perpetually delayed marketing campaigns to be implemented, since over Rs.2 billion had been accumulated from hoteliers and travel agencies through the Tourism Development Levy as well as through the Departure Tax for the purpose of promoting the country.
The government had as recently as this October, hoped to kick off a digital marketing campaign and a more traditional global advertising campaign through television by January 2018.
This was after the current government, which came into power in early 2015, cancelled the procurement processes started by the previous regime for a campaign and made fresh attempts at an integrated campaign with four components related to digital media, social media, public relations and advertising, to start by September 2016.
Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga told Mirror Business yesterday that while the digital marketing campaign now in the pipeline would get delayed further due to complex procurement, there is still a possibility of the global advertising campaign starting in January, at first through the television channel CNN, if the expenditure is less than US $ 100,000.
Amaratunga said that due to the delays in processing these two campaigns at the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB), the Prime Minister’s Office has stepped into take control of the situation and handed off the digital marketing campaign to the Public- Private Partnership unit of the Finance Ministry.
The minister said that Merill J. Fernando of Dilmah fame will be consulting on the campaigns and mentor the SLTPB in the future, based on his experience in marketing his world famous tea brand.