Monthly target of 100,000 tourists for 2022
- Kimarli says tourism transformed from B2B to B2C
- 31,600 tourist arrivals so far in 2022
- Tourism travel application to be introduced
- Tourism emergency fund under new act
BY Shenal Fernando
The tourism target for 2022 is to achieve at least half of the arrivals recorded in 2018, which translates to around 100,000 tourist arrivals per month, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando stated at a press conference organised by the Presidential Media Centre yesterday (13).
Commenting on targeted tourism arrivals for 2022, Fernando stated: “In 2020 we had about 500,000 arrivals before the country was closed, 1.9 million in 2019, and the highest tourist arrivals were recorded in 2018 at 2.3 million arrivals, which meant an average of around 200,000 tourists per month and 6,600 tourists per day. On the other hand, investments in the tourism sector in 2021 have increased beyond the pre-Covid-19 figures recorded in 2019 following recent efforts made by Sri Lanka Tourism to streamline the investment application process and at co-ordinating the approval processes with other line agencies.”
Explaining further, she stated: “Over the last 20-30 years, when someone wanted to do an investment, they had to go to 20-30 government institutions to obtain approval. So, what we did together with the assistance of USAID (United States Agency for International Development) was that we put all such applications in one. So now when you apply, you need to apply only once and Sri Lanka Tourism will co-ordinate with investors. What we did is that we got the investor to join via Zoom over the last two years and we got all the line-agencies seated in one room and we went through the project. That is actually the reason that investments increased in 2021 over 2019 when there was no Covid-19.”
Speaking at the same event, SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe claimed that over 31,600 tourists arrived in the country during the first 11 days of 2022 and that the average stay per tourist has increased to 12-14 days from the previous 9.75 days due to increased attention to wellness tourism.
According to Fernando, the increase in tourist arrivals is directly linked to the relaxation of restrictions by the Ministry of Health in October 2021, where vaccinated tourists with a negative PCR test obtained 72 hours prior to arrival and who had obtained a mandatory Covid-19 insurance were allowed to enter the country.
According to Fernando, the $ 12 Covid-19 insurance, which is offered by Sri Lanka Tourism together with People’s Insurance, is comparatively low compared to other Asian competitors and was made mandatory, as most travel insurances obtained by tourists do not cover Covid-19-related expenses and even if they do, they might not cover the intermediary care centres in Sri Lanka. She also claimed that this Covid-19 insurance which grants a $ 50,000 coverage has been commended by many tourists.
Out of the $ 12 fee, $ 3 will be taken by the SLTDA to fund expenses incurred to maintain a 24-hour call centre, carry out PCR tests, and co-ordinate insurance.
According to Fernando, Sri Lanka Tourism has also transformed the way in which they promote Sri Lanka. In the past, tourism promotion in Sri Lanka was largely done through a business-to-business (B2B) model with promotional activities focused on trade shows, etc. However, over the past two years, Sri Lanka Tourism has transitioned towards a business-to-consumer (B2C) promotional model in order to interact more with consumers through bloggers, magazines, and international media. She highlighted the importance of conveying to the foreign consumer the destination brand and the country positioning of Sri Lanka, so that they would at the time of making their decision to travel, be aware of what Sri Lanka offers, which includes hela wedakama, Ayurvedic medicine, wildlife, adventure, cuisine, and history of 2,500 years.
As a part of the B2C promotional strategy, Sri Lanka Tourism will be introducing a tourism travel application for tourists, which will amalgamate over 5,000 local websites related to tourism, allowing tourists access to information relating to Sri Lankan tourism including hotels, travel agents, and tour guides. This application will also include a portal for complaints and also an emergency button which will alert the nearest police station and Sri Lanka Tourism in the event of an emergency. Fernando further disclosed that the terms of reference in relation to this initiative have already been framed and that the application will be presented to Cabinet shortly for approval.
She further claimed that there is a deficiency of quality promotional content relating to Sri Lanka due to the previous B2B promotional model of tourism, hence the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be providing funding to develop the necessary content. Furthermore, the EU will also be assisting Sri Lanka in promoting itself as a wellness tourism destination in order to capitalise on the hela wedakama and Ayurvedic traditions of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the EU has appointed a public relations (PR) company to create content to market Sri Lanka as a wellness tourism destination in France and Germany and such content would be accessible to Sri Lanka Tourism in its promotional endeavours as well.
She further stated that Sri Lanka was among the top five destinations in the world for mind, body, and wellness tourism, which she claimed must be capitalised on. Fernando added that this requires collaboration with the private sector.
Fernando further claimed that Sri Lanka Tourism will be introducing a sustainable guideline for tourism covering not only sustainable uses of resources, but also sustainability in society. For that purpose, a new emergency fund will be created by the new tourism act which will be credited with 5% of tourism earnings.
She further stated that Sri Lanka Tourism will look to promote homestead tourism as part of the transition from a price-based economy to a people-centric economy through the addition of value to the tourist experience. She claimed that the modern tourist is looking for authentic experiences and not luxury.