The Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance, formed in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks, is lobbying the Sri Lankan government to take control of some tourist board activities.
The alliance came together and set up a new website called lovesrilanka.org to communicate news and updates related to the attack to inform trade partners and travellers, but has since evolved into a source of information compiled by tourism stakeholders in the Sri Lankan private sector.
The FCO lifted its ban on travel to Sri Lanka earlier this month.
Malik Fernando, of the Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance and managing director of Resplendent Ceylon hotels said: “The elephant in the room is promotion and marketing which is done by the tourist board based on a 1% levy off all the hotels.
“The tourist board, being a government agency, isn’t able to effectively develop plans and execute them. So, what we will be lobbying for, which the entire trade support, is that it becomes a private-public partnership where the money would be collected by the government through this levy but the management of the tourism development fund should be private sector-led because we are the investors and we are the people who know the market.”
Fernando hopes the lobbying will be resolved next year, and believes a successful outcome means they can ramp up trade activity in the UK and around the world.
He added: “We will be far more aggressive and far more sophisticated in our core markets like the UK. Our profile will increase. We know the tools, we know the trade and it will be far more effective, and I think the government understands that.”
He has also said Sri Lanka tourism has bounced back quite strongly thanks to “trade support and an increased familiarity of the destination.”
Fernando said: “Many people have visited in the recent past unlike the last issue we had, which was a long drawn out conflict, people didn’t know Sri Lanka and they were nervous. In the last five or six years many people have been and loved it, they know this incident is uncharacteristic.”
He said: “The advisory came about not because its terrorism, but because we didn’t speak with one voice after the attacks.
Now the advice has changed everyone was very happy and for me the UK was the most critical advisory. Although India and China are the biggest in numbers, for higher spenders and longer stays the UK is the number one market.”
“The day after it changed back we saw a spike in interest, enquiries and bookings because people had been and knew it was not a hotbed of radicalism, so its coming back very quickly, people know it is an isolated incident.
Fernando added: “I’m very happy to see some of the UK operators showing their confidence by increasing their activity and their programmes to Sri Lanka because I think they correctly gauged there is a lot of support and emotion for the country.”