Published on : Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi, Assistant Director, Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau engages in an exclusive conversation with Travel And Tour World at the Chengdu International Tourism Expo (CITE) 2017, Chengdu, China. He shared his insight about the tourism growth strategies of the country and its appeal to international travellers.
Travel And Tour World: As the CITE Partner 2017, what are your expectations from this travel event as one of the growth propellants for Sri Lankan tourism sector?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: Chengdu is a very dynamic and vibrant market for us. Every year we participate in this event and this year we are its country partner, so we are able to showcase our destinations and dynamic products within a short period of three days time, onsite as well as online, to an international platform. The organizers Conference and Exhibition Management Services have provided so much publicity and free campaigns to us and also a good amount of publicity outside China.
Travel And Tour World: Sri Lanka targets to welcome over three million foreign tourists by 2020. So what are your tourism promotion strategies?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: Sri Lanka is preparing to achieve that target. Our tourism industry is already welcoming slightly more than two million tourists from all across the world. So our travel industry is rapidly developing. Luckily, people are getting attracted to this country and China is also witnessing smart contribution to our tourism sector. Therefore our strategy is to uphold all our traditional markets and by maintaining the momentum of our cultural heritage and attracting emerging markets like India, China. So when it comes to achieving the challenge of luring three million tourists, I am confident enough to be able to achieve the target even before 2020.
With leadership of Ministry of Tourism and Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and also Managing Director Balsubramaniam and their keen efforts in promotion, it is all the more possible to meet this goal.
Travel And Tour World: What are the objectives of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau for the next year?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: As the government is preparing platform for travel trade sector, to develop tourism industry our focus and our objective is to create a comprehensive platform for business-to-business and also business-to-consumers.
Travel And Tour World: Please comment on the growth of international tourist arrivals in the last five years?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: Especially since 2010, Sri Lankan tourism industry started growing rapidly mainly due to peaceful environment established in our country and also because of rapid development of infrastructure in terms of road network, tourism, physical resource like hotels and also shopping centres and opportunities related to those arenas. We were able to achieve a growth of about 7 or 8% in total, every year.
Travel And Tour World: The Chinese tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka had witnessed 6.2% growth in October 2017. Please tell us what makes Sri Lanka a popular tourist destination for Chinese travellers.
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: 6.2% growth represents a monthly figure. I would like to share that the growth rate of 2016 as compared to 2015 was 26%. The reason behind that was the aggressive tourism campaign spearheaded by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and also the Sri Lanka Travel Trade campaign conducted in China. In fact we have covered all top 20 outbound cities in China. Having our own roadshows in China in last two years and also all outbound destinations in China we participate at least minimum one travel fair that covers the entire area of China and, we have had a strong presence. We will continue to mark a bigger presence here in time to come.
Travel And Tour World: Speaking of the tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka can you tell us how it is affecting MICE tourism of both the countries, especially CITE 2017?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: The MICE (meetings, incentives, exhibitions and conferences) segment is Sri Lanka is developing but leisure sector has greater potential. Our Government is ready to strengthen the MICE market. Currently we receive nearly15,000 MICE tourists arriving from China and also many tourists from India as well, per year. India is very much developing to cater to the Sri Lankan MICE market as well.
In another two or three years we can develop and improve much more in terms of MICE industry.
Travel And Tour World: What is the scope and growth of food tourism in Sri Lanka?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: Food tourism is one of our niche segments and as you know Sri Lanka and India are neighbouring countries that have an impact on cuisine in terms of cultural similarities. Also, we have very good historical story about our cuisine.
Sri Lankan culture is more than 500 years old. So our food can be rightly termed as a ‘culinary art’ that we are quite keen to showcase to international audiences and also interest foreign countries.
Travel And Tour World: How do you plan to improve airline connectivity with nations like China, India and other Southeast Asian nations?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: We always give preference to emerging markets because our traditional markets are always stable. So if I talk about China we started only with Beijing our national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines and at the moment we operate four destinations out of China- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Kunming. Especially Guangzhou has daily flights to Colombo as Sri Lanka Airlines is looking forward to raising the frequency of existing flights as well as expand the operations to other emerging cities.
Chengdu now, operates flights to Sri Lanka via Air China . In terms of India we fly Sri Lanka Airlines.
Travel And Tour World: 2017 has been the International Year for Sustainable Tourism as declared by the United Nations. What are the efforts of Sri Lanka in ensuring sustainable tourism in this part of the world?
Chinthaka Liyanaarachchi: This is a very good topic that is gaining attention because with rapid development of travel sector so many tourists visit here and therefore the sustainable tourism development is very important in such circumstances. With all the physical assets which are coming up and connecting to the market the environment needs to be protected. Sri Lanka sells natural beauty too, so our government is very concerned about developing eco-friendly sites to maintain the sustainability and protect the environment.