Tourism promotion to kick-start in May

Sutheash Balasubramaniam, Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB)
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector can heave a sigh of relief. After nearly seven years, Sri Lanka Tourism in May will launch a comprehensive destination campaign initially through digital platforms and thereafter through all media.

The aggressive digital marketing promotion campaign will focus on boosting markets like Germany, Western Europe, Middle East, China and India, said Sutheash Balasubramaniam, Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).

Thereafter by end 2017-early 2018, SLTPB will launch a more comprehensive, 3-year global campaign running to 2020 touching all media platforms and across the world, he told the Business Times adding that this focus will also be more through what he describes as ‘earned’ media.

Since the conflict ended in May 2009, Sri Lanka has had only one destination marketing campaign in late 2009-2010 and after that bits-and-pieces promotional activities focusing mostly on roadshows and participation at trade fairs. A destination marketing campaign has been in the works for several years but stalled by budgets and bureaucratic delays.

The SLTPB is banking on a heavy social media presence and customer previews on travel and hotel platforms. “Today the advertorial market is beginning to pay less and less. Today’s travelers decide on a destination or hotel by looking at TripAdvisor. They don’t look at the website of the hotel but check online reviews and see what others guests are saying. This is not paid or owned media but earned media because a destination earns fame through its visitors,” he said adding that the return on investment of those commercial ads is declining.

While India and China may be scoring by the numbers, it is Western Europe (the UK, Germany and France) that is and has been Sri Lanka’s most mature and sophisticated source markets.

“Western Europe is the largest source market, region-wide. Germany is one market that has stayed with us through the thick and thin (during the troubled years of the conflict 1983-2009),” said Mr. Balasubramaniam. Unlike Asians, Europeans stay longer, spend more and frequent top end hotels. Last year, national carrier SriLankan Airlines pulled out of Europe, barring the UK, to cut losses on uneconomic routes. It ran the only direct flights to Colombo from Paris, Rome and Frankfurt. KLM and Austrian Airlines began flights to Colombo last year.

Mr. Balasubramanian acknowledges that the loss in direct connectivity is always an issue. “Direct air connectivity has grown in importance and is an added factor in going to certain destinations as against having a couple of transfers. But the fact is that these are robust markets in Sri Lanka and despite a near 30-years of instability in the country, these markets have continued to patronize us,” he said.

“Right now SriLankan Airlines is going through a restructuring process. Once that is finalized, we would be in a better position to decide how to bring in direct connectivity. At some point we hope to resume flights,” he added.

Source : ST


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