Drop in tourist arrivals in Q1 2017

The airport closure is set to steer a drop in visitors to the island in first quarter 2017 just as Sri Lanka Tourism is gearing for a promotional drive and is drawing up new rules of how public private partnerships could work in future.

“Already we have recorded a drop in booking,” City Hoteliers Association President M. Shanthikumar told the Business Times adding that a drop was expected by about 8-10 per cent during the three months when the country’s busiest international airport, the Bandaranaike International Airport would be closed.

The airport will close from 8.30 am to 4.00 pm for flight take off and landings as the 30-year old runway is being resurfaced.

However, he noted that the industry is looking positive and with cooperative airport authorities, “we will manage.”

Growth is expected next year as arrivals are distributed among the hotels in the formal and informal sectors, Mr. Shanthikumar explained.

The long awaited promotional campaign is expected to kick off next year following the Tourism Minister John Amaratunga’s assurance to the industry in this regard.

This is being backed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s detailed campaign programme for 2025 for an aggressive promotion for the industry’s growth. “We believe that the industry will grow and tourism should pick up. The inventories are growing therefore the promotions are important to sustain the business,” Mr. Shanthikumar explained.

In the meantime the private sector is currently working out a strategy to ensure that private sector involvement in state sector institutions would not get them into trouble by leaving out responsibilities that could warrant any obligation other than as advisors.

Lately, a number of tourism industry personalities had been pulled up for sanctioning state funds to be allocated for purposes other than tourism promotion, which even they were unaware of.

In this respect, the industry believes the Chairmen and Directors General of the respective state institutions should be held responsible for such funding allocations.

A guideline on how private sector board members would function in the absence of such responsibility is currently being worked out.

Meanwhile promotions for feeder markets are expected to continue while bringing in travellers from the Far East and Australia along with the Indian and Chinese markets.

“There is a lot more room to promote China,” Mr. Shanthikumar said since Sri Lanka is yet to receive a large bundle of the traffic that checks into hotels globally as more are expected to travel next year.

Segmentwise the industry expects to gain more from the Meetings Incentive Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) events in addition to more travellers targeted via charter operations that had resumed since the last couple of years and cruise and sports tourism.

Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) Secretary Nalin Jayasundere explained that charters from Scandinavia, Russia, the UK and Italian markets were attracted thereby reviving a dormant segment of the industry.

He explained that tour operators have “more confidence in Sri Lanka” to promote the destination.

However, there are expectations for more support from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) by carrying out joint promotions that would help look at the country more positively.

Meanwhile, there are expectations of improvement in working out entrance fees to tourist sites by informing travel agents well ahead of making the bookings without haphazard charges being implemented.

Source- Sunday Times

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