Tourism…are we on the right track?
I’m told that Asian countries have now become the prime destinations for high-spending travellers.
Most of these high-end tourists venture out seeking unique travel experiences and that is the reason why they opt for exotic and unexplored destinations.
Yes, Sri Lanka can be highlighted as one of those exotic and unique destinations. And, that is where our ‘think tanks,’ at Sri Lanka Tourism, come into action.
However, we can’t be obsessed with just volumes, where tourist arrivals are concerned. We have also got to look at the spending power of the tourists we look to attract.
And, spending power doesn’t mean we need to charge five-star rates that are applicable in Europe.
For instance, luxury accommodation, in Thailand, costs a fraction of the price spent on any standard commercial hotel in Europe, or the US.
Even better: Stays at many luxury hotels, in Thailand, usually feature traditional performances during dinner, world-class cuisine, pampering at the spa, and Thai cooking classes.
Having visited Thailand many times ((invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote Thailand as the number one destination for Sri Lankan holidaymakers), I understand that high-spending holidaymakers flock to the ‘Land of Smiles,’ for the following reasons:
BEACHES, RICH HISTORY AND CULTURE, ANCIENT TEMPLES, FESTIVALS, FOOD, ACCOMMODATION, WEATHER, WILDLIFE, QUIET RURAL GETAWAYS.
Well, haven’t we got them all? But, unfortunately, even when the going was good, we were able to attract around 1.9 million tourists, in 2019, while Thailand almost hit the 40 million mark!
Whatever shortcomings, we have, let’s get it all straighten out, and we need to do it now…for the benefit of our tourist industry.
A Sri Lanka holiday should take in elephants, tea plantations and cave temples – a destination for nature and wildlife lovers; yes, we must stress that Sri Lanka is where you can have a tropical island escape that goes beyond the beaches. It’s a place to witness Mother Nature’s beauty at its very best, while immersing yourself in amazing culture, along the way.
Let’s also make Sri Lanka a dream come true for Indian Wedding Planners; Let’s make our Wildlife Parks a top attraction…on the lines of what tourists experience when they visit some of the national parks, in Africa.
I generally hear people referring to Sri Lanka as ‘a land like no other.’ And, they are absolutely correct! But, what worries me is that Sri Lanka, in spite of having ‘beauty’, in abundance, has still not been able to break into the tourism market … in a BIG way.
On my many visits to Thailand, as a journalist, I’ve only heard superlatives being used, by foreigners, to describe Sri Lanka. And, they all talk about our beautiful beaches … and Kandy – Sri Dalada Maligawa.
So, the inevitable question is why do we lag so far behind Thailand where tourist arrivals are concerned?
Some of the tourist attractions in Thailand include white sandy beaches, and terrific hotels, to historic temples and mouthwatering food, not forgetting the shopping malls!
Well, haven’t we got them all – ancient temples, beautiful beaches, great hotels, star class shopping malls … and mouthwatering food, as well! And, there’s more to add – wildlife parks, World Heritage sites … even a little bit of England, in Nuwara-Eliya?
With so many plus factors to woo tourists, why are we faced with a very bumpy ride on the path to success!
Probably, we are not conveying, in the correct manner, to holidaymakers, the world over, what we have to offer them to make their stay here a memorable experience.
We could also look to promote Cultural Tourism … maybe even Ayurveda and Village Life Tourism. There are several other branches of tourism we can introduce and promote. What about Wellness tourism!
As for Cultural Tourism, there are travellers who would very much like to engage with a country’s culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that help shape their way of life. And, we have a lot to offer in this regard.
Yes, nothing is impossible in our land like no other – Sri Lanka.