Achieving another remarkable milestone in the country’s booming tourism industry, Sri Lanka Tourism welcomed the arrival of the record 800,000th tourist in 2011 at the Bandaranaike International Airport last evening.
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Managing Director Rumy Jauffeur warmly welcomed John and Nadia Chambi from UK who were the savoured 800,000th tourists to visit Sri Lanka yesterday arriving via UL 501 Sri Lankan Airlines flight from London.
Sri Lanka Tourism offered a special gift and a complimentary package to the tourist who arrived today to visit country’s well- known attractions. During 2010, the total number of tourist arrivals was recorded as 654,476 as opposed to 800,000 in 2012 so far, which is a 33.1% annual growth.
This year has seen a massive contribution to this total from India, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Middle Eastern countries. The month of November 2011 breaks another record, being the month which received the highest number of tourists – 90,889 – in the history of Sri Lanka Tourism calendar years.
The arrival of the 800,000th tourist has turned everyone’s eyes on the country’s fast growing tourism sector, which has started sending positive signals of its promising future. At the beginning of 2011, Sri Lanka Tourism launched its ‘Refreshingly Sri Lanka – Visit 2011’ marketing campaign, with the aim of showcasing Sri Lanka as an island of newfound freedom; a place where the visitor can experience everything that is refreshing under the sun.
With this new branding, Sri Lanka Tourism promoted eight segments encapsulating eight wonderful experiences a tourist can enjoy within eight days such as: Pristine, Heritage Bliss, Thrills, Festivities, Essence, Scenic beauty and Wild Life.
These eight experiences were further stretched into 12 sub-themes to promote each month of 2011, including beaches, sports and adventure, MICE, people and culture, religious tourism, weddings and honeymoons, body and mind wellness, heritage, nature and wildlife, community and education, culinary and shopping and entertainment.
Under the guidance of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, a five-year strategic development plan has been launched for tourism sector for 2011-2016, based on the ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Vision for the Future’ Development Policy Framework.
This strategic development plan of Sri Lanka Tourism will achieve its core objectives serving the needs of all stakeholders and ensuring the economic benefits of the industry distributed to a larger cross section of the society from fishermen, craft men, farmers, street vendors, tour guides and tour operators up to the hotel industry.
During this five-year period the country is targeting attracting US$ 3,000 million of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the tourism sector, most of which will be invested in tourism infrastructure development.
There will be an increase in foreign exchange earnings from US$ 500 million in 2010 to US$ 2.75 billion by 2016. A huge increase is expected in tourism-related employment from 125,000 in 2010 to 500,000 by 2016.
The key strengths of the country that will be highlighted in all promotional campaigns for the next five years in Sri Lanka Tourism would be the diversity, compactness and authenticity the country holds as a tourism destination.
The Government of Sri Lanka has devised a comprehensive marketing campaign for this five-year period focusing internally on product development and the overseas promotional campaign will be developed systematically through several innovative approaches.
Sri Lanka Tourism is currently developing a highly-interactive web portal for tourism promotions, which can be accessed by any potential tourist who needs information about the country and its attractions, events, accommodation, tours organisers, transport, etc.
Sri Lanka Tourism’s official website will serve as the window of serving all information needs of travellers worldwide. The priority of all marketing efforts in the next couple of years will also be channelled through social networking web sites including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, etc.
Sri Lanka Tourism will continue to expedite successful programmes conducted during 2011 including the Visiting Journalists Programme (VJP), attracting nearly 200 journalists from reputed media institutes around the world to visit Sri Lanka and generate positive publicity based on their authentic experience to attract potential travellers to the destination.
This year Sri Lanka Tourism’s focus on webpage marketing, the Visiting Journalist Programme and trade fairs has brought positive results. Social networks sites of Sri Lanka Tourism have been very popular sites for the fans and the Sri Lanka Tourism Facebook fan page has recorded a growth of 550%, reaching over 4.3 million viewers.
Sri Lanka Tourism will work closely with foreign missions and Sri Lankan Airlines offices abroad to undertake country specific promotions. The tourism industry will continue its participation in more than 16 trade fairs annually such as ITB – Berlin, WTM – London, ATM – Middle East and TopReza – France, which represent important markets for Sri Lanka Tourism.
All promotional activities and strategic planning of the Government of Sri Lanka are aimed at achieving the target number of 2.5 million tourists by 2016. Accordingly, the tourism industry is expected to take a quantum leap in the next five years, serving the country at all levels of economic, social and cultural facets and addressing the wider issues related to the industry covering the sustainability, manpower, infrastructure developments, improving service standards, regulations, guidelines, public relations and tourist safety at a wider scale.
With the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the tourism industry is poised for growth, in line with the national effort of making Sri Lanka the emerging ‘Wonder of Asia’.