The Sunday Leader

Quo Vadis Tourism?

Tourism is too serious an industry to be left in the hands of amateurs.
Recently the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (S.L.T.P.B.) invited me to attend the relaunch of a hotel down south.
It was mentioned that the departure to the destination would be from the S.L.T.P.B. office in Colombo at 2.30 p.m. last Saturday by bus.
I arrived at the destination five minutes late, there was no one else to be seen, other than the security, who appeared to be unaware of the event, with one security officer in particular, whose body language did not convey the message of “welcome” to a visitor.
I then called Ms. Asheyra Mendis, S.L.T.P.B.’s Media Coordinator, who sent me the invitation.
She said that there was a change of schedule and that the bus had left at 9.30 a.m., instead of 2.30 p.m.
She further said that those who confirmed their presence were informed of the change of time.
I said I confirmed my presence, but was not informed of the change of time. Mendis was apologetic.
But something is not clicking at the S.L.T.P.B. I noticed a change for the worse, even the other day at the Bureau.
I together with other reporters were recently invited to the S.L.T.P.B. to be taken from there, to the Colombo Port, to cover the virginal arrival of a cruise liner.
The male receptionist who “greeted” me at the entrance was not the friendliest of persons. However, I was told that his presence was only temporary.
Nevertheless, this took me back to some 27 years ago, during the time when the now defunct Tourist Board was functioning.
There were two foreigners who wanted some information, and I took them to the Board for clarification. We were greeted on arrival by two pretty and smiling receptionists. Their Queen’s English may not have had been the best, but I believe those foreigners got the information they wanted.
Perhaps, the 26 year long war may have had made the S.L.T.P.B. rusty; perhaps, having had three ministers in as many months may have had demoralized the staff, but then, this is too vital an industry, having the potential to be Sri Lanka’s number one foreign exchange earner, now that the war is over, which cannot afford to have the front office of this apex tourism body be manned by nonchalant security, a not so friendly receptionist and a seemingly amateurish media outfit.
An attitudinal change among its front office staff, the first contact a tourist makes, is the need of the hour. First impressions count.

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