By Paneetha Ameresekere – Business Editor
The stock market has been trying to tap Singapore for investments by organizing investment seminars there is in the past, similarly, it may also be worthwhile for Sri Lanka Tourism (S.L.T.) to try to break in to this cash rich market.
In my all but three day visit to this city state recently, I found a bus driver and taxi driver who have gone abroad, but not to Sri Lanka.
If I had more time, no doubt, I would have had found out several other ordinary Singaporeans who would have had travelled overseas, unfortunately as I was in that country on some other work, I was unable to do so, other than randomly, either when travelling in a bus or in a taxi in my brief stay in this city state.
M. Piyatissa (58), a Singaporean bus driver of Sri Lankan parentage, whose knowledge of the island was clouded by its 26 year old terrorist war, though that war was over a year ago, has travelled to Australia, but never to his father’s native country.
Similarly Jack (38) a Singaporean taxi driver has visited countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, China and Vietnam, but not Sri Lanka.
If Singaporean taxi drivers and bus drivers can afford to make overseas visits, that may be an indication of the potentiality of exploiting the five million strong Singaporean market for tourism. In contrast their peers here in Sri Lanka live a hand to mouth existence,the difference between a rich and a poor country.
There may still be a picture of negativism on Sri Lanka in the eyes of the Singaporean public, as indicated by Piyatissa to this reporter, despite the fact that the war is over. So some convincing needs to be done by S.L.T. to assure the Singaporean audience that the war has been won and that there is peace in the island.
Singapore is under three and a half hours flying time from Colombo and there are plenty of Colombo-Singapore flights and vice versa taking place weekly. Another advantage is that Singaporeans can speak English despite the fact that the majority of Singaporeans are of Chinese origin.
That is because English is compulsory in schools in Singapore.
So the industry does not have to waste time trying to learn Mandarin, Cantonese or any other Chinese dialect, which might have had been the case if one were trying to tap the Chinese market.
Therefore it may be a worthwhile investment for S.L.T. to focus on the Singaporean market now that the war is over, and, just across the border the Malaysian market as well, another market where the disposable income of its people is rising and whose peoples can speak English.
Both of these markets also do have a sizeable ethnic Sri Lankan market, the aforesaid Piyatissa being a good example of this. Therefore a promotional campaign by S.L.T. on both of these markets may well be a worthwhile investment.
The Government on their side must minimize the presence of armed personnel in the city and elsewhere, such a presence is abhorrent to tourism development
Checkpoints and barricades will have to go.
In my short stay in Singapore, I saw not more than two uniformed policemen, and those appeared to be traffic cops. But I was told that there are armed plain clothes policemen in this city state, which had plenty of c.c.t.v. cameras even on the streets, so that a would be offender would be caught in camera, thereby dispensing with the need of having to have a policeman at every nook and corner.
Garbage clearance, beginning with Colombo and infrastructure development will also have to be get going as cleanliness, good roads and lighting are essential for tourism promotion.
With increasing tourists, night clubs, eateries and such like would follow, the private sector shall take care of those.
Law and order are also sine qua non for tourism promotion.
Those markets not only hold a potential for tourism, they may well be good enough to promote stock investments and f.d.i. too. Though investors from both of these countries have had invested in the stock market as well as in f.d.i., there is however potential to further expand their investments in those areas, for which the B.o.I. and the Stock Exchange too have a role to play.
Therefore the potential for tourism and investments in the stock market and in f.d.i. from both of these markets is promising with the war end. It is now upto Colombo to exploit this potential.
Hotelier and Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka Vice President Kumar Mallimaratchi alleged that there are 18 million Bangladeshis who spend their holidays either in Dubai or Europe. So, that’s another market which is right under our very noses that S.L.T. should try to think of tapping.