Posts Tagged ‘beaches in Sri Lanka’

Projecting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination

The Sri Lanka embassy in the Russian Federation received a special evaluation award at the Sri Lanka Tourism Awards 2011 ceremony held recently in recognition of the services it had rendered in promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination among Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan tourists. Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Russia Udayanga Weeratunge in an interview with ANCL (Lake House) Director (Operation) Upul Dissanayake explained the popularity Sri Lanka has gained among foreign tourists as a tourist destination and the manner in which the country should redouble efforts in achieving the government’s target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016.

Excerpts of the interview:

Although Sri Lanka was popular among the Russian people during the past several decades, we had not been able to introduce Sri Lanka as a tourist destination to them. Although there were air links between Moscow and Colombo during the time of the Soviet Union, our objectives as regards the tourist industry were not fulfilled through Russian tourists. Russians were not conspicuous among tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

Changing situation

We were able to change the situation during the past few years. Since I was appointed Ambassador, my prime objective was to increase the inflow of Russian tourists for Sri Lanka. For this, I introduced a systematic plan. Apart from participation in Tourism exhibitions in Russia, our Embassy organized tourism workshops, seminars, photographic exhibitions, film shows and host of other activities.

Foremost among them was bringing journalists and electronic media persons on visits to Sri Lanka to produce reports, documentaries and films about Sri Lanka and getting them published in Russian newspapers and television channels. I was able to get them produced free. So far, 53 short films have been shown on Russian and Ukrainian channels on my own initiative. There was no financial burden on Sri Lanka. This enabled us to showcase the true situation in Sri Lanka and its places of scenic beauty.

We were able to produce two CDs on travel details in the Russian language and distribute them free among Russian tourist guides and Tourist institutes. We were able to produce a 300 page colour souvenir including pictures of Sri Lankan Tourist hotels and destinations in the Russian language using the latest technology. When it was presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we got instructions to publish it English too and we hope to accomplish it within a month.

At the beginning, we did not receive the help and support as a state institution for some reasons. But we did not allow such indifference to impede our resolve to take our programmes forward for the sake of the development of the tourism industry. We have to work with all countries in the world if we are to achieve our target of 2.5 million tourists in 2016. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan occupy a prominent place among them. Nearly 11 million Russian tourists visit other countries annually.

If we can bring at least one percent of them to Sri Lanka, it would contribute towards achieving the aim.

As an Embassy, we cannot achieve this objective single handed. Although we receive the backing of the Economic Development Ministry, we need the assistance of the Private Sector too towards it.

Private sector mediation

The State and Private sector should join hands in promoting the tourism industry. The Private sector should come forward and assist us at this moment without criticizing the Embassies or the government. The best example of this non co-operation was the difficulty we encountered in obtaining the data about hotels for our souvenir. I had to personally intervene at times to get this data. The private sector should realize that it was they who realize the ultimate dividends and benefits from the promotional activities conducted by the Sri Lanka Tourism Board in league with Sri Lankan embassies. Two different strategies are needed in promoting local and foreign tourists. If the private sector gets involved with Sri Lankan Embassies abroad in promoting tourism in the respective countries it would bring about efficiency and reduction in the capital outlay to a great extent.

Government efforts to develop the country’s infrastructure facilities should be lauded. This will help bring more tourists to the country. These infrastructure development programmes would help introduce beautiful beaches in Kalpitiya, Pasikudah and Kuchchuveli to tourists.

Cultural tourism

We can make the country a good tourist attraction by improving the conditions of tourist resorts and identifying and catering to other tourist needs. This is one weakness in certain tourist hotels. Although there are a large number of Russian tourists in certain hotels, they do not have even a single employee fluent in the Russian language or menus printed in Russian for the convenience of Russian tourists.

Three years ago, our embassy provided free translations in Russian to many tourist hotels. We can capture the hearts of tourists by providing services in their own language.

The Tourism Promotion Ministry should take measures to improve the quality and competency of tourist guides. The construction of the new airport at Mattala in Hambantota will help develop that area as a tourism zone.

We should try to promote cultural tourism by paying attention on places of historical significance, places of worship and historic cities and introduce them to tourists. We are now in the process of producing a new CD on tourism for Russian tourists to replace the CD introduced four years ago.

During my tenure of office, the annual inflow of Russian tourists has increased from 5,000 to 23,000. This year, there had been a 56 percent growth in Russian tourist arrivals from January to July in comparison to the corresponding period last year. There had been a 107 percent increase in Ukrainian tourist arrivals.

Following representations we made to the Sri Lankan government and the Russian government, Sri Lankan Airlines started Moscow-Colombo flights from September last year. Following a request made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Ukraine, a direct air flight has been started by Ukraine between Kiev and Colombo.

This helped increase Ukraine tourist arrivals to 11,700 last year. Our endeavour is to increase this to 22,000 this year.

I request the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the private sector to pay more attention towards Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in their promotional activities because tourists from these countries are considered to be high spending tourists.


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