Sri Lankan Tourism officials are hoping a newly introduced strategic marketing plan will result in a 10% increase in their returns.
At a press briefing held recently, Deputy Minister of Tourism Faizer Mustapha stressed on the private sector’s active involvement in the ventures. “The industry is essentially a private sector one,” he said, calling the public-private liaison a “dynamic influence”.
Some of the salient points of the plan include singling out the UK, Germany, France, India, Middle East and Russia as focus markets to build relations with strongly. The funds for the promotional activities will be allocated in proportion to the size and the need of the individual market, according to Dulip Mudadeniya, Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Board.
Another point the team will be working on will be gradually transforming the current mass tourism to up-market oriented ‘niche tourism’. Events like the Ramayana Trail and the recently concluded Galle Literary Festival fall into the category.
The objective is to turn the country into an “Asian Tourism icon” while focusing on its most outstanding feature- being an island, a fact many have lost sight of in the process of campaigning, Mudadeniya said.
2006 has been taken as the benchmark and the board is hoping to see those figures which were considered “acceptable”. Already, according to Renton De Alwis, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism, the arrival numbers of January 2007 have been exceeded by the provisional figures of 2008. De Alwis attributed this to the arriving of the Borah community leader coming down in January of both years.
To give the strategy further thrust, the planning team have appointed global advertising firm Phoenix Ogilvy to improve the promotional area.
The plan details out a number of possibly effective but expensive efforts. Celebrity tourism, mobile guides and post card campaigns, among them. The main income for the board is the Cess fund from arriving tourists.
The tight budget is a factor that has hampered many such creative suggestions in the industry in the recent past. Mudadeniy however is optimistic, “What is important is not the size of the budget but how you spend it”.