Archive for the ‘Sri Lanka Travel’ Category

Top 10 tourist source markets and marketing of Sri Lanka tourism niches

The tourism sector is a significant that contribute to the economy of the country. Sri Lanka received over two million arrivals in 2016. This was 14% increase compared to last year 2015. In the case of foreign exchange earnings, Sri Lanka’s earnings increased by 18.5% in 2016.

The employment generated in the sector irrespective of direct and indirect increased by 5.1% in the year 2016 (Annual Statistical Report – 2016). When looking at the contribution to the economy of the country, there is an opportunity to the destination marketing organisations to improve further the tourism products in terms of marketing.

Sri Lanka tourism is growing progressively with the huge assistance of the Government of Sri Lanka. Destination marketing organisations need to focus on the branding strategies to promote an attraction as tourist destination. According to the tourism strategic plan 2017-2020 of Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Sri Lanka is working on the tourism destination planning and to make them sustainable through facilitating the destination management. This will help allocate resources easily and minimise the cost.

Destination of branding is an important strategy to market the destinations in other countries. This will create a positive attitude and influence on tourist behaviour (Ritchie and Ritchie, 1998). In order to be successful in the destination marketing, destination brand identity is a requirement for destination brand loyalty. This may guide for marketing activities of Sri Lanka tourism.

Sri Lanka is in need of creating such loyalty for its niches. Further, this will lead to build destination brand image. It is due to the fact that destination marketing organisations are really marketing a dream that is perception is reality (Pike, 2008). Therefore, Sri Lanka tourism should create destination brand identity and destination brand image among the international tourists.

Thus, the objective of the paper is to provide analysis of tourist arrivals and identify major source markets and suggest strategies market the tourism niches of Sri Lanka tourism. This may help the policy makers to strategise the tourism niches in Sri Lanka.

Analysis of tourist arrivals

Sri Lanka is receiving many tourists from all over the world. For this study only the top 10 markets for Sri Lanka are taken into consideration. Tourist arrivals to the country from the top 10 countries market is shown in Table 1.

A large number of tourists are entering into the country from India. However, there has been a substantial increase from 2015 to 2016 in tourist arrivals from China. According to the strategic plan for Sri Lanka Tourism 2016-2020, 50% of total tourist arrivals for the country is from India, China, UK, Germany and France. Therefore, it can be concluded that China will also have future considerable growth of tourist arrivals despite the fact that we received a huge number of tourists from India.

Although the United Kingdom and Germany are in the third and fourth rank of the top 10 markets, Australia and Canada have 17% growth rate and hence there is likely future growth these markets.

These tourists to the country visit for various purposes. Table 2 provides the purpose of the tourists entering Sri Lanka.

According to Table 2, tourists from various countries of origin arrive in Sri Lanka for various purposes like pleasure, business, visiting friends and relations, convention and meeting, religious and culture, health, sports, official visits and education. Although the travellers pay a visit for various reasons, a substantial portion of tourists i.e. 83.4%, arrive in Sri Lanka for pleasure/holiday.

As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, there is emerging and growing market for convention/meeting, health for which the destination marketing organisations should attempt to promote those areas to the potential and existing markets. However, it is very important to promote further the pleasure/holiday to the existing and potential market all over the world. It is because of the fact that the major portion of tourist arrival is due to the pleasure.

Since the top 10 markets for Sri Lanka is focused in this article, it is necessary to analyse the purpose of those 10 markets’ visit to Sri Lanka. Table 3 gives the details about the purpose of tourists’ arrival by country of top 10 residence. It is observed that substantial number of tourists from top 10 market for Sri Lanka tourism are for the pleasure or vacation. Therefore, it is to confirm that there is growing market for pleasure for those top 10 markets.

It is also noted here that there is good market for MICE tourism from India, UK and from China. Further, it also worthy to note here that there is a potential market for medical tourism from Germany. The analysis also reveals that focusing on the pleasure/vacation is most important for Sri Lanka. In addition, focusing on medical tourism and MICE will also give additional income and employment generation to the economy of the country. As such, it is very important to market MICE tourism and medical tourism for the potential markets. MICE tourism should be further marketed to the markets such as India, UK and China in the first instant.

Marketing Sri Lanka niches of tourism

Sri Lanka needs to be marketed as a destination for international tourists from all over the world. Thus, destination marketing organisations in Sri Lanka should attempt to engage in destination marketing of tourism products available in Sri Lanka. In particular, Sri Lankan destination marketing organisations are in need of engaging destinations brands to the potential country markets.

It is vital to understand the concept of destination marketing at this juncture. In order to be successful in the destination marketing of Sri Lanka tourism, Sri Lanka’s tourism niches need to be branded and positioned in the mind of existing and potential tourists in their source market. When it is branded, it is easy for destination marketing organisations in Sri Lanka to engage in destination marketing. Therefore, it is imperative for Sri Lanka tourism to brand the niches in Sri Lanka. Specifically, the niches like MICE, medical tourism and sun and beaches may unquestionably be branded and marketed all over the world after successful implementation of brand marketing strategies in the top 10 country markets.

Destination branding strategy starts from the identification of target market. As far as medical and MICE tourism are concerned, they are growing smoothly and capturing a share of market in Sri Lanka. Of top 10 markets, Germany, UK and India may be a potential market for Sri Lanka medical tourism, which could be observed in Table 3. It is also observed that India, China and UK are the potential growing market for MICE tourism of Sri Lanka. As an initiative, Sri Lanka can maintain those markets as a key market for medical and MICE tourism. This has also been mentioned in the Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020 of Sri Lanka Tourism.

Once the target markets are identified, the next measure of destination brand marketing is to identify the differentiation which may be unable to find in other countries’ medical and MICE tourism. This differentiation strategy should create a unique image in the mind of target market. Here it is important to ask a question why travellers choose Sri Lanka as a destination for MICE tourism. Hence, the answer for the question should be the factors that determine the differentiation of the country’s MICE tourism.

The factors around the differentiation of strategy may be the cost of living, cost of space, quality of manpower, exhibition and conference space, location, airfare, infrastructure facilities, IT facilities, safety and prominence of destination (Khan, 2015). All these factors can well be attributed to Sri Lanka for MICE differentiation strategy. Destination marketing organisations can have one or combinations of these attributes to brand Sri Lanka as a MICE destination. Further, this could be the components of the MICE brand. These should also be the components of positioning of Sri Lanka as MICE destinations.

Sri Lanka has a huge space for MICE. This should further be improved enabling to offer wide range of MICE services. For example, the BMICH and Nelum Pokuna Theatre. MICE is standing for meeting, incentives, conference and exhibition and therefore, programs can be arranged in collaboration with hotels in Colombo and surrounding the Colombo. Sri Lanka can focus on the costs, quality of manpower and safety in positioning the MICE tourism in the international tourists’ mind.

The differentiation strategy along with strong positioning may create an image of the MICE of the Sri Lanka as MICE tourism destination. Tourism marketers of MICE of Sri Lanka should attempt to tangiblise the MICE tourists’ experience and try to reinforce the image. Subsequently, tourists will be satisfied.

As far as medical tourism in Sri Lanka is concerned, it is at its infancy now but it is one of the lucrative opportunity to the tourism sector in Sri Lanka. It is observed that the major markets for medical tourism of Sri Lanka are India, China, UK, Germany and France since most of the tourist arrivals are from those countries. Sri Lanka needs to have more investment in the improvement of medical facilities. It is also believed that the medical sector in Sri Lanka has already started to work out on the medical tourism.

Analysis reveals that most of the tourists arrive the country for pleasure or holiday. Hence, other niches to be promoted are whale and dolphin watching and surfing. This can easily be promoted since whale watching can be done only with sea professionals. In Sri Lanka, this is being done by the Navy. Hence, safety is ensured and positioned.

Arugam Bay is one of the top sea surfing place in the world. Thus, it can be positioned well and it should be done to those top 10 markets. This can be done only through promotional efforts to those top 10 countries and destination marketing organisation should ensure the consistency of the message in all media.

Although the category of the sun and beach is considered as mainstream of the Sri Lanka tourism, it should be marketed as niche. According to the strategic plan 2017-2020 of Sri Lanka Tourism, the source markets are UK, China, Germany, France, USA, India, Russia and Canada. The differentiation attributes of the sun and beach should be positioned to those source market firstly. It is due to the fact that the largest portion of the tourists arriving to Sri Lanka is for pleasure and holiday purpose (See Table 2).

It is understandable that Sri Lanka has many niches to promote to the international tourists all over the world. Therefore, it is important for destination marketing organisations in Sri Lanka to learn about international tourist behaviour and find the market segments with proper research and formulate marketing strategies for positioning the market niches in the tourism sector of Sri Lanka.

In order to tap the source markets for tourism, it is recommended to firstly promote the niches to the identified target markets which are in the top 10 list of tourist arrivals. Therefore, destination marketing organisations should be engaged in digital marketing platform to promote the tourism niches effectively since the existing and potential tourist to Sri Lanka are now with digital technology.

It is also important to provide the tourists with quality service and atmosphere. This will determine the satisfaction of tourists. Hence, providing first class hotels and restaurants and a relaxing environment along with the identified tourism niche products is necessitated. In order to maintain the standards in services provided to the tourists, international quality assurance standards can be used to benchmark.


The major objective of the analysis was to suggest important tourism niche products and recommend strategies for marketing them to identified source markets. Sri Lanka has potential to market MICE, medical and sun and beach tourism and it has all infrastructures including the safety, transportation along with road networks.

Although Sri Lanka has already started to promote its niche products, needs to further attempt to promote its niche products all over the world through digital marketing. Hence, there must be digital marketing strategies to promote tourism niches like MICE, medical and sun and beaches to identified source markets.

The brands for each niche like MICE, medical and sun and beaches may be given separate brands along with slogan that will help reinforce the brand in the minds of potential and existing tourists coming to the country.

Although Sri Lanka has slogan for entire country (Sri Lanka – a land like no other and now wonder of Asia), it may be recommended to have slogan for each niche. This will help position each niche in the minds of tourists and will be able to differentiate well so that niche tourism will capture the top of minds. For example slogans for cities Michigan (Pure Michigan campaign), Sydney was promoted as ‘the world’s most sophisticated city’ were very successful in destination marketing.

nAnnual Statistical Report – 2016, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority

nPike. S., (2008), Destination Marketing: An Integrated Marketing Communication Approach, Elsevier.

nRitchie J.R.B., and Ritchie R.J.B (1998), The Branding of Tourism Destinations, International Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism, Morocco.

nSri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan, 2017-2020

nKhan M. A., (2015), MICE Tourism, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 299-304.

(The writer is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing Management, Faculty of Management & Commerce, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka.)

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Wilpattu National park opened earlier than scheduled

The Wilpattu National park which was closed for visitors, a month ago, due to the drought was re-opened for local and foreign visitors from 9th of September 2017.

According to Minister Jayawickrema Perera, since there is enough water within the park for animals, a decision was taken to re-open the park.



New vehicle regulations to protect Galle Fort

New measures will be put into place from 1st October 2017, to protect the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Galle Heritage Foundation chairman Channa Daswatte said regulations passed in 2009 for the protection of the site would be operational from today. The foundation comes under the purview of the Law and Order and Southern Development Ministry.

Accordingly, heavy vehicles weighing more than five tons and three metres in height will not be allowed into the Fort.

Vehicles transporting goods into the Fort will be allowed to enter the site from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The speed limit will be 25 Km per hour and vehicles will be allowed to park only in demarcated areas.

A special gazette notification was issued in 2009 which included guidelines for construction within the Galle Fort and regulations pertaining to vehicles .

The Foundation said the regulations were necessary to protect the heritage site as the arches of the Dutch fort and some of the old houses had suffered extensive cracks due to unrestricted heavy vehicle movement going to and fro.

The Foundation also pointed out that vehicle emission and noise pollution were becoming a hazard within the fort.

In 1587 the Portugese initially built a small fort in Galle called the ‘Black Fort’ which was replaced by the present Galle Fort built by the Dutch in 1663. This site, stretching over 38 hectares was declared the 38th World Heritage by UNESCO in 1988.

Pix and text by Gamini Mahadura, Galle Corr

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SL to host Indian tour operators outbound convention in Oct.

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the national apex body of India’s tourism industry, held its Outbound Convention 2017 in Sri Lanka from 2-4 October

The three-day summit, hosted by the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) in collaboration with IATO, is expected see 300-400 participants representing inbound tour operators, travel agents, hotel chains, airlines, media and other stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality industries from India.

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga described the IATO Outbound Convention in Sri Lanka as a vote of confidence in the country’s rapidly developing tourism industry.

SLCB Chairman Prema Cooray said it is a great opportunity for the travel trade of Sri Lanka to meet with their counterparts from India and to cement their relationships further to strengthen this very important market.

Today the market has improved from 125,000 tourists in 2010 to 360,000 last year, while expecting the arrivals from the country to increase to 400,000 by the year-end.

“In my opinion, the Indian market has no borders. there is a lot of scope to expand. We can go towards a mark of perhaps one million tourists from India in the foreseeable future,” Cooray expressed.

IATO has a membership of over 1,600 from across the country.

“With so many entities involved, the main advantage of the convention is the publicity and promotional activity created for Sri Lanka just by holding the event in the country,” he added.

Noting that close to 4,000 medical organisation representatives from India visited Sri Lanka recently, Cooray pointed out that the numbers that could come from the leisure and MICE segments were huge. (CDS)


Sri Lanka captures attention of Gujaratis


Sri Lanka Tourism was able to clinch the award for the best decorative stand – international awards at the Travel and Tourism Fair (TTF) fair, which was held from 1-3 September. The event was held in Ahmadabad, India. Sri Lanka Tourism participated at the fair for the first time in collaboration with the High Commission of India, to focus with a view of targeting travellers from Gujarat who are known to be wealthy and famous for their business skills and entrepreneurship within India.

14 tour operators and hoteliers from Sri Lanka participated at this event. The Sri Lankan pavilion with its colourful themes and graphics was a major attraction. The inauguration was held under the patronage of Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister of India Rita Singha Joshi. Viranga Bandara, Assistant Director/Marketing Sri Lanka Tourism, Udeni Perera, Manager Sri Lankan Airlines – West India were among the rest of the distinguished guests.

The team of Sri Lankan tour operators/hoteliers included Exotic Global Holidays, Nawamini Travels Ltd., NKAR Travels Ltd., Asia Leisure Travels, Walkers Tours, Asian Adventures, Jetwing Travels Ltd., Hamoos Travels Ltd., Catapultt Services Ltd., Apple Holidays, Bernard Tours Ltd., Zenith Expeditions, Fun Holidays Ltd. and Riu Hotels & Resorts. The first two days were opened for B2B and the last day was for general public.


This event showcased a wide range of travel and tourism industry stakeholders, such as national/regional, tourist organisations, state government tourism departments, tour operators, travel agents and hotels.

TTF is India’s largest travel trade show network. Since 1989, it provides an annual marketing platform and the opportunity to network with the travel trade in all major cities. The regional circuit of our TTF branded shows covering nine major cities in India make their way to the grand finale, OTM, India’s largest travel trade show in India, on the basis of number of sellers, buyers and rented area.

Up to August this year, tourist arrivals from India has recorded a number of 233,120, whereas it has marked 3.6 increase compared with the same period last year.

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Eco Team facilitates Running Wild with Bear Grylls

When it comes to adventure and survival in the wild, no one does it better than Bear Grylls. Amongst all of the adventure experiences that he has created for millions of fans around the world, is an episode of Running Wild that was actually filmed in Sri Lanka. Premier outdoor and eco-tourism solutions provider Eco Team was on hand to make sure the experience of Sri Lanka for the cast and crew was a truly extraordinary one.

Eco Team was the official logistics provider for this episode of Running Wild featuring Mike Horn and Matt Pokora in the SamanalaWewa region. The area which is more than 10km away from human inhabitancy meant that the cast and crew had to trek with all their equipment. The film crew also camped in the great outdoors in close proximity to wild elephants and other animals. To ensure that the smooth operations of filming this episode, Eco Team put together a logistics crew of close to 75 members.

Speaking on this significant feat Eco Team Founder and Chief Experience Officer Anurudhdha Bandara said, “Efficiency is of high importance in such situations as time and resources are very limited. Food and drinks had to be provided for the crew from a distance of more than 6km away, merely on foot and this is no easy task but Eco Team was equipped with the labour, facilities and equipment needed to complete this challenge. In creating an adventure programme watched by millions around the world, Eco Team had an adventure of our own making sure that the team truly experienced Sri Lanka.”

First broadcasted in the year 2014, featuring famous High School Musical movie star ZacEfron, ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’ is a survival skills reality television series. It starsworld renown British adventurer, ex SAS and French Foreign Ligonier Bear Grylls who is also known for his television series ‘Man vs. Wild.’ Throughout the many episodes of the show, ‘Running Wild’ has featured celebrities such as former US president Barack Obama, Titanic movie star Kate Winslet and award winning actress Julia Roberts.

During their expedition the episode’s host Mike Horn, the guest celebrity Matt Pokora and the crew consisting of over thirty members were all in Sri Lanka for the production of this episode. Mike Horn is also a world renowned adventurer who was dubbed the ‘world’s greatest living man’ by the Telegraph UK, having circumnavigated and trekked around the world from pole to pole and even along the equator – Latitude Zero with no motorised transport. He has also circled the Arctic solo using a kayak, ski and his own feet, expedited the Amazon on his own and scaled mountains over 8,000 metres. The guest celebrity of the episode, Matt Pokora is a famous French singer and songwriter who has also taken up a number of acting roles. Together, they stepped out into the virgin forest of Samanala Wewa Nature Reserve which is located in between Belihuloya and Kaltota regions, mid-way through the dry and wet zone. The area is located in an untouched, remote area where wild elephant sightings are many which increased the risk for the two stars as well as the large production crew. However all’s well that ended well.

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‘One Island – One Big Mall’: First Colombo International Shopping Festival in October

Ministry Of Tourism Development And Christian Religious Affairs Jhon Amaratunga addressing the press conference, others from left:  SL Tourism Promotion Bureau MD S. Balasubramaniam, Ministry of Tourism Development Additional Secretary Deepthi Fernando, SL Export Development Board Chairperson Indra Malwattte, Ministry of Tourism Development Secretary Esala Weerakoon, SL Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara, SL Airline CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte, SL Retailer’s Association Chairman Hussain Sadique, SL Retailer’s Association Convener, Colombo International Shoppin Festival Chairman Asoka Peiris and Travel Agents Association of SL President Wilhelm E. Brown

By Charumini de Silva

Providing a stepping stone to make Sri Lanka a retail hub and to convert the island to a 365-day destination, Sri Lanka Retailer’s Association (SLRA) will organise the first-ever Colombo International Shopping Festival (CSFI) in collaboration with Tourism Development Ministry and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) during the entire month of October.

  • Rs. 50m promotion campaign to carve a niche for SL as a new shopping destination
  • Minister considers Festival as an important program in its promotion campaign
  • SLRA aims to uplift the rural, regional and national retail alongside tourism development
  • Festival Convener says many tourists unaware of quality, branded and cheap products of SL, over 5,000 mobile phones a month are going out of country

A brainchild of SLRA, under the tagline of ‘One Island – One Big Mall’ the CSFI is envisaged to become an annual festival, which aims to carve a niche for Sri Lanka as a preferred new shopping destination. With an estimated cost of Rs. 50 million approved by the 2017 Budget, it is expected to attract new segments of tourists, buyers, international brands, suppliers and investors.

Addressing media in Colombo recently SLTPB Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara said that CSFI is one of the initiatives of a regionally based promotion program of the aggressive global campaign as well a part of Sri Lanka Tourism’s action plan 2020 and Vision 2025.

He said the concept of CSFI was a request of SLRA and retail outlets under the umbrella of SLRA will drive this initiative in Colombo to start with, where the anchor event of CSFI will be held from 20 to 22 October at Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC).

According to him, the publicising process will commence on 1 October which will span till 15 November, as television commercials and digital advertising promote Sri Lanka as a shopping hub for South Asia. The television commercials will be aired in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives, while the digital campaign will appear on all platforms from Google search, YouTube, TripAdvisor and all social media channels including Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Marketing in other countries will be with assistance of respective foreign embassies and SriLankan Airlines.

“The National Steering Committee headed by Tourism Development Ministry Secretary decided our international program campaign covering South Asia at a cost of Rs. 45 million. The Tourism Development Ministry initiated this procurement process with the assistance of SLTPB,” he added.

Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said the Ministry considers CSFI as an important program in its promotion campaign.

Claiming that he was a bit puzzled when the SLRA decided to hold the festival in October, which is not a seasonal month he added that it coincides with holidays in a few Asian countries which augurs well for shopping during the scheduled period.

Pointing out that the concept of a shopping destination will take a few years to develop, SLRA Chairman Hussain Sadique expressed confidence that CSFI would be a great foundation to make Sri Lanka a preferred destination for shopping in the Indian Ocean .

“CSFI is an event focused on the destination. We felt that there were certain areas that were not tapped by the tourism industry. Therefore, SLRA will give leadership to attract the growing, young, middle-class travellers from around the word and particularly from Asia to make it a point to come to Sri Lanka for shopping,” he added.

If Sri Lanka needs to increase the number of visitors, he said it is imperative to add value while providing pleasant experiences and suggested shopping as a key segment. “We have to focus on category marketing. Shopping is one major component that was neglected for so many years in our tourism. We have better global brands, quality products that are coming straight from factories at competitive prices.”

Noting that the retail segment in the country’s economic pillar is quite small, around one third of the GDP he stressed through CSFI they hope to uplift local brands and entrepreneurship. “What we want is to uplift the rural, regional and national retail alongside tourism. This will help boost the domestic consumption, local brands will get opportunity to grow, it will increase employment opportunities and enhance creativity,” Sadique added.

CSFI Convener Ashoka Peiris acknowledged the launch event as a historical day for Sri Lanka in a step towards becoming a retail hub.

He pointed out that retail cost in Sri Lanka is about 4% of turnover, compared to 15% in Singapore and said as a result they could offer products at a much competitive price to the Indian sub-continent.

“Many tourists do not know about it. Over 5,000 mobile phones a month are going out of Sri Lanka because the traders are taking them. In Sri Lanka there are no VAT and duties on certain items too. So, instead of going to Singapore and Dubai to buy electronics they will now come to Sri Lanka. We have quality branded clothing, watches; cheaper than in many regional countries, but not much awareness or events in this magnitude took place,” he stated.

Five years down the line Peiris said CSFI will be similar to those in Singapore and Dubai. “I hope tourism and retail will create value and we will be in a position to provide that global experience to our visitors. People in the region will say they are going to Sri Lanka for CSFI.”

SriLankan Airlines CEO Suren Ratwatte said the airline has the perfect catchment to promote CSFI, with its extensive connectivity in the region.

“It is a great event to promote tourism in this region. Having the highest number of international flights to India we have an unrivalled network in the Indian sub continent. We are the only real SAARC carrier,” he quipped.

As the national carrier is planning to commence its direct flights to Melbourne from next week and connectivity to other Asian countries Ratwatte said it augurs well to promote the event.

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