Sri Lankan tourism authorities have revised the budget of the long-awaited, five-year-long global tourism campaign of the country by reducing their costs for the initial two years of the campaign, The Sunday Morning Business learns.
Speaking to us, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Marketing Director Madhubani Perera stated that the campaign’s budget has been reduced until the country’s tourism industry has significantly recovered from its current state, which Sri Lanka Tourism has estimated to be in two years.
“There are no changes to the campaign itself, but we have reduced the cost of the campaign for the first two years. We expect there to be a significant uptick in tourists entering the country during this time, and we will look at increasing the campaign’s budget accordingly.”
The long-awaited global advertising campaign for Sri Lanka Tourism was set to be launched in September this year but faced delays due to Covid-19.
The campaign has been in the pipeline for five to seven years under two governments, and has been desperately awaited by the industry, particularly following the Easter Sunday attacks and more recently the coronavirus outbreak.
She went on to state that while the billing documents have been finalised, they are yet to float the tender for the campaign.
This news came amidst the arrival of the first group of tourists to Sri Lanka in the last nine months. On 28 December, the country reopened its borders to a group of 180 Ukrainian tourists as part of a pilot project to restart tourism in the country. However, three tourists from the group which came in on Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines Boeing 737 to the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) tested positive for Covid-19 on 30 December.
As of July 2020, we learnt that the global campaign for Sri Lanka Tourism, which was supposed to launch this month, might be delayed until tourism returns to its pre-pandemic levels. During that time, Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism S. Hettiarachchi stated that after years of delay under consecutive governments, the campaign might be delayed yet again as the relevant authorities were still contemplating reopening Sri Lanka to international tourists.
“The country’s reopening to tourists too has been pushed back again. Even if the country is opened, it is going to take time for tourist arrivals to get back to their normal levels. At a time like this, launching the campaign would not reap the desired benefits,” he added.
According to him, the campaign has been put on hold after calling for tenders and before the evaluation of tenders by the Cabinet-appointed Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).
Hettiarachchi stated that tourism authorities have requested the Ministry of Health to open the country for a limited number of tourists. Therefore, the practicality of precautions taken to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 by tourists in Sri Lanka can be checked.
“Rather than opening the country for thousands of people per day, we have requested the health authorities to allow us to welcome 50-60 tourists a day, so that we can have sort of a trial period on how we can implement testing and quarantine procedures for tourists. It would be easier to do this with small numbers. If it proves to be a success, we can increase the arrivals gradually,” Hettiarachchi stated.
The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) was initially scheduled to reopen on 1 August last year and this was moved to mid-August following a surge in local Covid-19 cases. The date was once again pushed back to September after identifying several Covid-19 clusters within the country.
Hettiarachchi told The Sunday Morning Business in early June last year, before the tenders were called for the campaign, that this campaign will be unlike any previous campaign planned or conducted by the Ministry or the SLTDA due to the unprecedented nature of Covid-19 and its impact on international tourism as well as the global economy.
Scheduled to be conducted for a period of five years, the campaign is aimed at bringing in six million tourists by 2025, sources told The Sunday Morning Business. While the campaign has received the approval of the Treasury early in 2020, the total cost of it is yet to be revealed.
In planning this campaign, the SLTDA has analysed tourism data from the past five years and segregated the campaign into three categories: Mature markets, Eastern and Middle Eastern markets, and new markets.
The “mature markets” category includes all top tourism-generating markets of Sri Lanka such as Germany, the UK, France, India, and China. The campaign is expected to increase arrivals from these countries by 25%. The “Eastern and Middle Eastern markets” category includes countries such as Australia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and other countries in the region, while the “new markets” category includes the US, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and Spain.
The SLTDA will appoint destination representation agencies for the mature and Eastern and Middle Eastern market segments. These agencies will conduct digital tourism marketing activities and public relations (PR) campaigns in the Eastern and Middle Eastern markets, while in the mature markets, in addition to this, they will also conduct above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL) marketing campaigns.
Tourism marketing for new markets will be conducted by PR agencies that would showcase PR activities to attract tourists from those respective markets.