Bid To Attract More Travellers from US
By Roy Silva
Plans are afoot to attract 100,000 American tourists to Sri Lanka by 2016 and according to Sri Lankan ambassador to US and Mexico, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, the embassy along with Sri Lanka tourism, an aggressive campaign has been launched to achieve the objective.
The move involves a bid to woo part of tourist traffic to the Maldives and India and also attract more up market travellers to the island nation, said the ambassador.
Despite the aspirations of ambassador Wickramasuriya, industry veterans point out that the long haul flights involved in the journey from the Americas to Sri Lanka is a major drawback in the exercise. “A huge interest in people in the Americas wanting to visit the island is only a remote possibility,” they said and point out that accessibility is a key factor in attracting long haul travellers.
In 2011, there were 49,057 (a 22 percent increase) from North America to Sri Lanka compared to the year before. According Sri Lanka Tourism, in the first six months of this year there was a 20 percent increase, from 22,753 to 27,355 compared to last year during the same period.
According to ambassador Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka could expect about 45,000 American tourists this year. However, most from North America are expatriates of the island.
“Lots of American tourists go to Vietnam because of links over the war. You have to have a very good reason to come on a long haul flight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka tourism said that with the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka stood a chance to enter the North American and the Canadian outbound market but admitted that the lack of direct flights, attractive multiple destination tour packages and budgets for promotions were hampering the efforts to get more travellers from the Americas.
Tour operators say multiple country tour packages covering Sri Lanka and Maldives or Sri Lanka and India will help to better attract American travellers.
The Lankan embassy in Washington DC has initiated its own promotions to entice up market American travellers to visit Sri Lanka through a programme titled the ‘signature tour ‘ where a group of American professionals tour the island with the ambassador.
According to ambassador Wickremasuriya, those visitors take thousands of photographs and once back in their own country they post them on social media sites and talk about the island with their families and friends.
“Word of mouth is one of the best ways to promote Sri Lanka as they experience it rather than somebody trying to convince them to come,” he said.