Sri Lanka is launching, what is seen as its first big country promotion campaign in November 2016 focusing, apart from other ‘delights’, on the country being one of the safest countries in the world from being a one-time negative destination. Arrivals are soaring with July 2016 clocking the highest month ever on record with 2019,351, up 19.1 per cent from the same month in 2015 and beating the record set last December of 206,114. December is normally the highest grossing month for arrivals. Arrivals this year have been dominated by India, China and new entrant Australia. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga speaking at a Hospitality Conference on the India Ocean held in Colombo on Wednesday said the worldwide destination promotion campaign on a multi-media platform will be launched by Sri Lanka Tourism in November this year.
“One barrier that we face is that the message that Sri Lanka is now one of the safest countries in the world has still not filtered down to some of our target markets. This is something that needs to be addressed and will be done through this campaign,” he told participants. Once a distant favourite in terms of a destination due to a 30-year-long civil conflict, Sri Lanka has recovered since 2009 moving from just 500,000 arrivals to a target of 2.2 million in 2016 and 4 million by 2020. Figures released at the meeting show that Sri Lanka’s growth of nearly 18 per cent in arrivals last year far exceeded other Asian destinations.
In carving out a niche as a travel destination in Asia, Sri Lanka is ramping up its infrastructure with new highways, revamped domestic airports and better connectivity. The government is also putting up for sale the Colombo Hilton, the upcoming Grand Hyatt, and the Grand Oriental Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Asia, whose properties are owned by the state, in a bid to clear long term debt. A string of new international brands like Movenpick, Sheraton and the Marriot are also set to adorn the Colombo skyline in the next few years.