Published on : Monday, March 26, 2018
Travel And Tour World converses with Sutheash Balasubramaniam, Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau in an exclusive interaction at the ITB Berlin 2018. He is a top industry professional with high expertise, both locally and internationally in the administrative sector.
In this discussion Mr. Balasubramaniam talks about his plans for 2018 in terms of promoting Sri Lanka as a unique tourism destination, the domestic MICE market of the country and much more.
Travel And Tour World: How is your third day at the ITB 2018 going?
Sutheash Balasubramaniam: It is a great feeling and I am very excited to be at ITB. There are some excited times for the past few days.
Travel And Tour World: What are your plans for 2018?
Sutheash Balasubramaniam: In 2018, we are going to really focus on our top eight markets to promote Sri Lanka. We are planning a global media campaign on a leading television news media channel followed by a digital marketing campaign for the top five markets which would include Germany, France, Sri Lanka, India and China.
Thereafter, it would be followed by a global campaign for our top eight markets which would be expected to come by the end of the year or early next year, by 2019 January. We have some really exciting world class events.
In the last six months, we have had the Asia Pacific Choir Games in Sri Lanka which is a first in South Asia and that is also a qualifier to the World Choir Games. Then two weeks ago, we had the Iron Man which is a world number one user sports, for the first time in South Asia in Colombo which is going to be the an annual event, shortly in couple of years.
We also had a broadway show which is called the ‘Sound of Music’ that is initiated by one of our leading industry pair and these things are more to come. These are some of the first world class events in South East Asia. These are some events that we are planning to make Sri Lanka a happening place. Apart from the destination itself, it is full of diversity and authenticity and a very compact place which can give tourists a memorable experience. We want to be on the top with some of these world class events. So you might see more of these happening this year.
Travel And Tour World: Can you tell us something about MICE opportunities in Sri Lanka ?
Sutheash Balasubramaniam: I think we are not comparing ourselves with Singapore which has a much bigger capacity to accommodate MICE but we do have the diversity which can give different types of ambience in different parts of the country, whether it is a beach or in a plantation or in a heritage background.
We have some very good team at hotels which have the capacity to host between 500 to 1000 people, so we have had quite a few MICE programs in the recent past. Some of them are related to professional trade business. Right now just before I came to ITB, we had a high level Spanish Outbound Trade Association who was present to hold the Annual General Meeting in Sri Lanka end of the year.
We had the French Outbound Travel Association, who had held the annual general meeting last year. So these are some of the things we are very much related to trade, travelling, leisure and MICE programs that we have had. We are also happening to meet up corporates, particularly targeting India to have some of the incentives programs in Sri Lanka because it is an ideal place and it is just a couple of hours away from India, for a nice weekend programs, these are some of the things that we are promoting.
Travel And Tour World: German is a big market for you. Besides this country which are the new European destinations you are trying to market Sri Lanka?
Sutheash Balasubramaniam: Germany, France for me include UK as well in Europe, are some the traditional market that has been with us for a couple of decades. So the trust we have built on the market, the repetitive customers that has been, who went through the tough times of Sri Lanka, we want to leverage on that.
The rest of Europe, particularly from Netherlands, we have seen after establishment of the KLM having a direct flight to Colombo, we saw that growing by about 25% last year. We are also seeing growth in places like Italy, Belgium. These are some of the joining countries that have really grown. You will see quite a bit of interest and we are visiting also to the nodic part of Europe. There is quite a lot of interest and we have had discussions with the Swiss, wanting to start charted flights end of the year which would really capture the high end of the swiss market coming in to Sri Lanka.
So these are some of the markets which we would like to rejoin them and leverage some of the experiences to have with France, Germany and UK.
Travel And Tour World: Tell me something exciting in Sri Lanka that tourists must try to do, if they are there for a week.
Sutheash Balasubramaniam: There are plenty of things that you can do, depending what each would like. Different people would like to have different types of combination. Sri Lanka is a place full of diversity. In terms of the diversity, there is wildlife, heritage, beaches, adventure or you want to play golf or try out some adventure sports like scuba diving, hot air balloon or snorkeling.
These are some of the things that you can do depending on each one’s interest. So I think there are plenty of options, that is where our unique selling proposition. Generally Europeans stay there for about 11 to 14 days, they spend a lot of time on the heritage site, the beaches and exploring the regional wildlife.