Sri Lanka Tourism jumps 11 places but reality is different: Athukorala


Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Dr. Rohantha Athukorala – Pic by Lasantha Kumara

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala dissected the Global Travel and Tourism Competitive Index 2015 which was launched by the World Economic Forum last week where Sri Lanka had spiked up 11 places to be placed 63 on 141 countries which created much interest to the senior leadership audience from the industry.

Athukorala explained how the ranking on the 1st Pillar – Enabling Environment where Sri Lanka is ranked 70 will in fact be moved to be a top 50 country within the next two years due to the overall thrust of the new country administration is more private sector savvy whilst not competing with the private sector but he did agree that the single debit unemployment level will have an issue with the overall growth agenda of all industries be it apparel, tea, tourism or the IT industry that is planning to achieve a $ 20 billion external trade agenda.

On the 2nd pillar the Chairman challenged the private sector perspective that has led to the absolute non governance of the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau which has resulted in the country not having a global advertising agency or PR agency when branch mark countries have multiple ad agencies targeting different markets. “We have not had this issue in other industries where I have sat on their director boards for the last six years,” voiced Athukorala. “Now we are once again in the drawing boards to start from scratch in the appointment of ad agencies, PR agencies and digital marketing entities and it is unfortunate that the industry will have to take the hit on the short term.

“We work almost 18 hours a day he said as we are taking part in over 47 travel and trade fairs globally, conducting pull activity with almost 1,000 media journalist visits; almost 500 trade familiarisation programs whilst venturing into new communication initiatives like screen based marketing and new product development. Ideally a budget of three billion must have team 60 on the front end but we are working with 15. Recruitment has begun as per the cadre structure but attracting talent on government salaries is a challenge. We are not complaining but this is the reality that the public sector works on,” said Athukorala.

After analysis of the rest of the two strategic pillars, the Chairman commented, “The first three months that we have taken office was to rebuild the lost pride of the staff of the promotions bureau and then make the industry a top of the mind industry among policy makers given the strategic investment that has been made by the private and public sector.”
“I hope when the next results are released by the world economic forum Sri Lanka can be a top 50 country similar to tea, apparel, cinnamon or sapphire. Sri Lanka must be a $ 100 billion plus on brand value and GDP whilst we also become a preferred destination for tourism. One key pick up is that that the top tourism destinations are not rich countries as per the 2015 report,” said Athukorala.

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