By Charumini de Silva
The key objective of Project Blueprint is to make Sri Lanka’s waters safer for blue whales and other cetaceans. Partners associated with the project include Sri Lanka Tourist Bureau (SLTPB), Jetwing Hotels and Cinnamon Hotels.
The project also aims to assist with the revitalisation of coastal communities through engagement in responsible whale watching activities and partnership with local development agencies, local wildlife tourism industries and local fishermen.
Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world in which to enjoy whale watching, with a variety of blue whales, sperm whales and 25 other cetacean species to be seen. However, these beautiful creatures are increasingly threatened and endangered by a combination of irresponsible, unregulated whale watching and ship strikes.
To combat this, project Blueprint aims to raise awareness, provide training and scientific support to the burgeoning industry so that whales can continue to inhabit the waters and a responsible industry can benefit local people.
Speaking at a recently held media briefing SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said that it was necessary to speak to the private sector in order to identify the right target market to promote whale watching in Kalpitiya, Mirissa and Trincomalee.
Further Athukorala said, “It looks like whale watching is a very unique product that we can develop in Sri Lanka. It is time we offer something contemporary to our visitors, but the product needs to be properly sketched out, in terms of overall attributes and branding. I want to sit with the private sector and ask their views in tapping the best target market of our key markets UK, German, France, Italy, China and India.”
“We have to have a very strong digital marketing campaign because digital marketing is the way forward for developing tourism. After having a comprehensive dialogue with the private sector, I look forward to set up a communication strategy where private and public sector could work together in developing one brand,” he added.
WDC Program, Vanessa Williams-Grey said, “Sri Lanka has the potential to be one of the top destinations in the world for watching blue whales and sperm whales, but achieving the coveted ‘gold standard’ requires the highest standards across the board. Hence, raising awareness and educating the local community about responsible whale watching is of utmost importance in ensuring sustainable tourism.
Sharing experience of encountering a school of sperm whales during a recent underwater photo shoot in Kalpitiya WDC Program, Andrew Sutton said it was the largest school of sperm whales he had see in Sri Lankan waters.
“There were two large groups with over 20 sperm whales, which was an amazing experience. We also encountered five killer whales in Kalpitiya, which is new to the Sri Lankan waters. Thus, I don’t see any reason why Sri Lanka should not promote whale watching,” he noted.
The airline, wildlife charity and other partners will work together to jointly develop a community-based responsible whale and dolphin watching industry off the coast of Sri Lanka and encourage responsible behaviour amongst local boat tour operators.