Dutch publisher on mission to bring wealthy tourists and investors to Sri Lanka

By Shanika Sriyananda

It was in 2011 that he first stepped into this island nation. He didn’t know that it would change his destiny. Since then he is living in Sri Lanka. Charming smiles of friendly people, country’s beauty and the business opportunities glued him to become a ‘Sri Lankan’.

His love for the country has made him embark on a project to promote Sri Lanka, the tropical paradise as he calls, on the radar of the European holiday makers by publishing an international multilingual magazine and website – ‘Global Sri Lanka Magazine/website project’.

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“My target is the European market. We are accessing the educated and affluent traveller who is willing to spend a significant amount on his or her holiday choice,” said Tom Tielrooij  an international Dutch publisher.

Also being a writer, he is the brainchild of the ‘Global Sri Lanka Magazine/website project’, which is aimed to promote Sri Lanka as a holiday destination and also emerging market for investments.

Tielrooij is in the publishing sector for the last 30 years and has the experience in publishing international multilingual magazines, books and websites which promotes destination counties and cities to the tourist and business entrepreneurs.

Speaking to the Daily FT Tielrooij explained his desire to publish four different European language editions i.e., Dutch, German, French and English.

“When talking about holidays or business it resonates much better if you address the Europeans in their mother tongue as especially the Germans and French are not so familiar with reading English,” he said.

Last year, the Dutch language edition was published and distributed to 600 bookstores. The magazine fetched a good demand among the Dutch readers. As Tielrooij is also board member of the Dutch Sri Lanka business Counsel a contact was made to the KLM.

“Now it has been arranged that Dutch language edition of the Global Sri Lanka magazine will be on board of the inaugural flight of KLM coming to Colombo end of October.

This week the German language edition goes to the printers and will be distributed to 750 bookstores in Germany, Austria and part of Switzerland.

After the printing is done Tielrooij travels to Germany to hold a press conference as it is for the first time that a South Asian Country promotes itself in the bookstores in Europe. It will be a milestone for a country like Sri Lanka.

Once he returns back to Sri Lanka in early September he will start the production of the French language edition which needs to be ready on 25 October as 450 high end French tour operators will be accompanied with the French Minister of Tourism to Sri Lanka. After the French edition, plans are underway to print the second Dutch language and English editions.

His next target is to launch the Global Sri Lanka website, soon, to promote Sri Lanka as a niche market to the Europe and the rest of the world.

“The website is a great tool in combination with the magazines. We have asked bloggers from around the world to visit Sri Lanka. We show the most amazing films which convince people to visit Sri Lanka. The website will have unique features to attract the readers,” Tielrooij explained.

He said that it was very important for a country like Sri Lanka to pitch to the right target audiences.

“My entire distribution system is focused on precisely knowing where these high-end readers live,” he said.

The distributing chain of the Global Sri Lanka Magazine in Europe helps Tielrooij to get in touch with the famous book shops where people in Europe come to buy books and magazines.

He said although the internet has dominated people’s life, still a greater portion of the European population makes it a habit to read magazines, specially travel magazines which informs them about the next holiday destination.

“At home the Europeans like to discuss their next holiday with friends, colleagues and relatives.  My task is to tell the story about Sri Lanka, which influences the holiday makers and possible investors. In Western Europe, people go to book stores every week to buy their magazines, books and newspapers. There are in fact so many magazines published in Europe but the space on the book shelves are limited and it creates a high competition among the publishers to get position on the book shelves,” he noted.

Only one third of the total magazines published can be stored on the book shelves. But, he said as he had been an international magazine publisher all his life he knew these distributers and they grant him a position on their book shelves for the Global Sri Lanka magazine, which is a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to market itself.

He said the distribution of the magazines is the key to the success of his project. Not-sold copies come back to Tielrooij’s distribution centre in Europe and are then distributed complementary to the airport business lounges of airlines and to booking agents.

Tielrooij is confident about the success of this project as he has done the same concept for The Netherlands and some major European cities.

According to Tielrooij Sri Lanka has the opportunity to pitch itself as a ‘niche market’, which will be promoted among Europeans through the magazine and website. “This is a such an astonishing beautiful country, which can be branded very well,” he said adding that the main markets that show interest in Sri Lanka as a tourist destination are Germany, France, England, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

“Therefore, we are publishing the magazine in four language editions. Each language edition is written to specifically target the interests of each of these European nations. For an example, the German people are interested in Ayurveda, the French are more interested in adventure activities, while the Dutch like to read about the VOC history,” Tielrooij explained.

Thanking his local team of designers, writers and sales people, who have worked tirelessly to prepare the Dutch and German Language edition, he said it was a massive achievement as Sri Lanka can now boast of its own European class life-style magazine in the European bookstores.

Explaining why the European market is vital for Sri Lanka, he said that the individual spending of the Europeans would greatly benefit Sri Lanka.

“Europeans spend lots of money on their holidays. They are totally a different kind of tourists. The Sri Lankan Government should really consider this aspect. It is good that tourists book hotel rooms but what is the benefit when they run across the road to buy water bottles. Most hotels in the west do not make only money from hotel rooms’ rate but more from the ‘up-selling’,” he said.

According to Tielrooij, the star-hotels are getting into up-selling already but other hotels could still learn a lot what up-selling is all about.

“European tourists prefer to have relaxing holidays while enjoying lunch and dinner with a bottle of wine and would spend money in a bar, but only when the bar offers a cosy atmosphere. Some of the hotels are on the right track but could gain a lot of knowledge as soon as they understand how we Europeans really spend our days on holiday. Once you know what the European visitors really like it is much easier to make extra money,” he explained.

He said Sri Lanka definitely doesn’t want cheap holiday makers but wants to invite people who can afford to visit and spend money in the country. “It is easy to say everybody is welcome but at the same time you need to think how much money do visitors spend per person in the country,” he stressed.

Tielrooij said that he did a similar campaign through a magazine to promote the Municipality of Hague, and it became a great success as it was launched among the targeted groups. He said that when they see a magazine promoting a country or a city, they browse the website for more information and this was the main motive that he was ready to have the Global Sri Lanka website.

He, who has been into the four corners of Sri Lanka for the last few years, says that he writes from the heart, which will resonate to say how beautiful Sri Lanka is.

While many Sri Lankans are migrating for greener pastures Tielrooij said Sri Lanka was a paradise for him and he would breathe his last in Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka has so much to offer from golden beaches to wildlife to rain forests to friendly people to Ayurveda,” said Tielrooij. Tielrooij said he was in contact with investors in Europe and he knows that the moment will come that these investors will come.

“With the Government trying its very best to promote investments, it is only a matter of time that they will come. The present Government is doing its very best to open up and make the country a good place for investors. Sri Lanka has been on the map for a long time because South Asian region is of the few spots in the world where you can get a good return for investment,” he noted.

He is confident that the change of the presidency and the Government, the stability in the country and the foreign policy will has its positive effect in the long run which will be resulted in more European investments to flow in.

Tielrooij said he wanted to try out a novel concept of tourism promotion which connects the European tourists with local people who need help. “Just imagine what will happen if I bring the European tourist just for a few hours to the poor people living in the shanty house in terrible living conditions. I’m sure it will open their heart and ask immediately if they can help and support. A relationship is built which means that they will come back,” he added.

He also said that Sri Lankan tour operators need to plan their tour packages to change the existing old-fashioned tourist packages, in which the tourists were taken from site to site with no time to enjoy stress-free holidays.

“They try to sell sites as much as possible. Most of the tourists are taken from one place to another by cars and hardly have time to re-energise. These packages are not suitable for Europeans,” Tielrooij said.

He wants to help and support the country to promote tourism and motivate investors to come as Sri Lanka, as he said, is truly a very beautiful authentic place with wonderful people and great business opportunities.

Source : http://www.ft.lk/article/562051/Dutch-publisher-on-mission-to-bring-wealthy-tourists-and-investors-to-Sri-Lanka#sthash.itrT9yxv.dpuf

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