Sri Lanka to offer lower rates in off season to boost tourism


By Heshan Shanilka and Ranshitha Kularatne

Sri Lanka Tourism, in collaboration with international airlines, hotels and travel agencies, has launched an initiative called ‘Island Escapes’ to boost arrivals during the off season months of September – November and April – June.

Island Escapes, a joint initiative by the Ministry of Tourism and Christian Affairs, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), will be launched on Saturday, 15th September, the Ministry announced.

SLTPB Managing director Sutheash Balasubramaniam said in its initial phase the promotional campaign for ‘Island Escapes’ would focus on India, China and Middle East and expand to other markets gradually.

The promotional campaign will be carried out by the agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) Sri Lanka and aims to attract tourists by positioning Sri Lanka as a 365-day holiday destination. The campaign is expected to reach an audience of 10 million, according to JWT Sri Lanka CEO Alyna Heji.

Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga called this “a pioneering campaign to boost tourist arrivals during off season.

“The programme will offer attractive rates to visitors and has been developed after discussions with airlines, hotels and tour agents, in a way that will benefit every stakeholder.”

He added that several packages will be introduced to tourists and airlines such as SriLankan, Emirates and Qatar will offer special rates. The need to support every stakeholder in the industry was emphasized by the Minister, saying that initiatives such as this will help in reaching arrival targets since tourist arrivals are not on par with other Asian destinations.

Sri Lanka Convention Bureau Chairman Kumar De Silva said that the Island Escapes programme has been initiated based on five key areas. The first key area is covering the September to November and May to June period which is called the ‘off season’. The second key factor is the market that focuses on India, China and Middle East. The third key area is setting a regional package that focuses on Colombo city in order to remove the perception that it is an expensive city to visit. Final key area covers the supplementary benefits of the packages such as transfers, breakfast and city tours. The special packages will be available at 3, 4 and 5 star hotels. These packages are available for over-night, 4-day and 7-day stays starting at US$ 99.

The SLTPB also allocated funds for the campaign including the support of international airlines that agreed to market overseas and further discussions will be held between SLAITO and international airline services.

Based on three reasons the target market for Island Escape project is mainly for millennial travelers. Firstly, Asia is the number one destination for millennial travelers. Secondly, millennials are looking for authentic diversity which our country has in abundance and thirdly, millennials will account for 50% of global tourism by 2020.

The media strategy is aimed at providing visual appeal to tourists and a mobile friendly website that comes with English, Chinese and Arabic language translations. 80% of the media strength will be focused on driving the visual beauty of Sri Lanka using platforms like YouTube and social media.

During the first eight months of 2018 tourist arrivals were up 12.5% year on year to 1.582 million, with the government hoping to reach three million tourists by the year end.