Tourism PR campaign approval this week following delay

By Uwin Lugoda

Cabinet approval for the global public relations (PR) campaign to be conducted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) following the Easter Sunday attacks is expected to be received this week, after attempts to obtain approval last week failed.

The delay was due to the weekly Cabinet meeting not being held last week as President Maithripala Sirisena was away on an official state visit to China. The campaign is aimed at creating a positive perception about Sri Lanka on the world stage, to counter the negative global publicity Sri Lanka attracted over the past month.

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Kishu Gomes told The Sunday Morning Business on Thursday (16th) that the delay was unfortunate as nothing could move forward until Cabinet approves the proposal.

“I am expecting the approval next week. For us to start anything, we need the Cabinet approval.”

Gomes also stated that the target markets for the campaign include the biggest tourism source markets for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s three biggest tourism source markets are India, China and UK respectively.

The PR campaigns would be modeled on post-terrorism campaigns carried out by other countries around the world. The two-month long campaign is set to have an investment of Rs. 450 million

The campaign is set to be formulated by international experts who have worked on many post-terror recovery campaigns earlier and will be a reputation-focused PR initiative as opposed to a standard tourism promotional campaign, as it is too premature for a fully-fledged advertising campaign.

Reliable sources confirmed to The Sunday Morning Business that J. Walter Thompson (JWT) had been chosen as the PR agency to represent Sri Lanka to the global market. JWT was the advertising agency which won the Rs. 314 million contract to develop Sri Lanka’s brand identity campaign, “So Sri Lanka”.

During a special press conference held for the industry and media on 6 May, Sri Lanka Inbound Tour Operators (SLITO) President Harith Perera stated that there are still 2,000 to 3,000 tourists entering the country on a daily basis, most of which are FIT (Free Independent Travellers), who do not go through any travel agents and find their own way here.

He went on to say that these FIT tourists can carry forward a positive message to the rest of the world through their social media networks.

Meanwhile Gomes, who had been heading both the SLTPB as well as the Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) since February this year, stepped down as the Chairman of the SLTDA last week to focus more on promoting Sri Lanka.