. Govt.’s thrust on upscale Western tourists may be misplaced: JLL

The Sri Lankan government’s decision to place the utmost importance on upscale Western tourists seems to be misplaced, a Fortune 500 company said.

“It’s true that governments want the Western traveller because they find him to be a more affluent traveller and spends more dollars in the country.

But saying that, when the clear writing on the wall is that your largest travellers are from the continent, I think that it could probably be misplaced,” Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Hotels and Hospitality Group Managing Director Mandeep Lamba said.

He was presenting his views during the launch on the findings of a new JLL report into Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, in Colombo.

In addition to his preference for Western tourists, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last year that the tourism trends in Eastern countries tend to mimic the West, and therefore, promotions should be done in the West.

Lamba said that when Sri Lanka has such a large source market to tap into, it should be capitalized on, with proper marketing as well as the development of infrastructure to cater to the wants of the tourists from the neighbouring countries.

Sri Lanka’s leisure sector leader – the John Keells group – is following the same theory, changing its products to suit the Chinese and Indian markets.
However, the other hoteliers have only been complaining that Chinese tourists come in large groups and tend to pay low rates through
travel agents.

This is despite the United Nations World Tourism Organisation listing Chinese tourists as the highest spenders in the world.

Lamba said that proper promotions and infrastructure should correct the situation.

“In countries like India and China, which have very large populations, you will find that initially, when the markets are developing, you will attract the mid-end or lower-end, but as Sri Lanka starts promoting actively in these countries and gets infrastructure, it will get the higher-end,” he said.

JLL Business (India) CEO and Sri Lanka Operations Chairman Gagan Singh concurred.

“If they need that element of shopping, we’ll bring it in, and the retail space is coming up by 2017-2018. We’ll have it. So you need to understand the customer like in any market,” she said.

Lamba added that Sri Lanka could become a hotspot for ‘uber-luxury’ tourism in another seven to eight years, as other luxury operators seem to be extremely interested in the destination, after their peers like Sheraton and Shangri La set foot in the country recently.

“To get luxury, there aren’t enough luxury products on offer,” he spoke of the current situation. The government is keen to position Sri Lanka as a luxury destination.

Meanwhile, Singh added Sri Lanka would realise that high-end tourists from India and China are also interested in religious tourism, especially with the Buddhist Circuit, if there had been research into customer needs.

“And when compared to similar destinations like Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines, Sri Lanka has a much better offering,” she added.

The JLL report said that Sri Lanka must have a clear and strong promotional campaign, and that the country must reduce the dependence
on a single market.

However, the industry’s Rs.2 billion promotional fund was seized by the government through the new Budget and the industry is planning to do ‘dynamic promotions’, since it has to pursue the government to include promotional funds during the next Budget, which will be enacted in 2017.

Source : http://www.dailymirror.lk/102963/govt-s-thrust-on-upscale-western-tourists-may-be-misplaced-jll#sthash.AVFuXn0D.dpuf

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