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Sri Lanka’s tourism: Not giving up amidst Covid-19 uncertainty

(MENAFN – Colombo Gazette)

From Bhavna Mohan

As the island’s second largest foreign exchange earner, at least before COVID, the tourism industry has been cornered again due to the second wave of COVID-19 cases reported across the island in recent weeks.

The introduction of global travel restrictions earlier this year, preventing country-to-country movement to contain the pandemic, spoke in favor of the industry’s plans to hit 3.5-4 million tourist arrivals and $ 5 billion in revenue by 2020 – Promising goals as the industry found itself on a recovery path after the devastating attacks on Easter Sunday in April 2019.

The number of tourist arrivals has been zero since April this year, with arrivals in March also falling by 70%. With this in mind, Sri Lanka Tourism has worked tirelessly to keep the “Sri Lankan Vacation Dream” alive by entering into online collaborations with travel influencers in the hope that Sri Lanka will be at the fore once airports and transport hubs open List is in international travel destinations.

Although the industry was hopeful after the curfew was lifted in May and adjusted to the situation by focusing on domestic tourism to keep itself alive with the latest developments, it has no choice but to re-strategize to ensure their survival.

Cope safely

In an interview with the Colombo Gazette, Padmi Fernando, Director of Sales and Marketing at Mövenpick, one of Colombo’s leading city hotels, said: “As an industry, we were only shaken because it grew by leaps and bounds. It was also in a recovery phase after the Easter attacks (April 21, 2019).

“It was difficult at first,” she said, “but once we understood the situation we were able to control it better.” We began to live with it while we took steps to control it. ‘

Hotels in Sri Lanka must follow the local health guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) as set out in the “Operating Guidelines for Tourism in Sri Lanka with Health Logs”. The SLTDA ensures compliance with the same through audits carried out by KPMG.

Needless to say, prioritizing security and implementing security measures are challenging, but still needs to be done.

We asked Fernando how they could adapt. ‘We planned it well. We always work with the Ministry of Health for our zone. The SLTDA also checks us from time to time. ‘

Global chains must adhere to additional health guidelines, added Fernando, saying that Movenpick was recently certified by Accor Hotels Group and Bureau Veritas under the label of health and safety standards that was introduced earlier this year to allow the safe opening of hotel businesses support.

The greatest asset

Just dictating that guidelines must be followed doesn’t end where it ends, however. The stakeholders involved play a crucial role in compliance with the protocols. The most important stakeholders are huma resources.

It goes without saying that the driving force of tourism in Sri Lanka are the people who are particularly known for their hospitality and warm smiles. Unfortunately, many in the industry have faced difficulties in recent months. While some were laid off due to cost cutting, others had to close due to a lack of income, and staying motivated was a challenge for those who stayed.

In the same conversation with Fernando she said: “In this context, we make sure that we deal emotionally with our employees. We work with them all the time and we know communication is important. Leadership also plays an important role. We need to build this sense of oneness; that we are all in it together, that we are all in survival mode. ‘

In order to be able to reduce costs, we asked Fernando how this is handled. “In a hotel there are certain benefits that you offer your employees that you may need to reduce. If you do this, you need to do it in a fair way so that you don’t cause unnecessary problems with employees. You have to take care of everything. ‘

Citing an example of a measure that Movenpick had taken to motivate its employees when the hotel was closed during the lockdown, she said, “At that point, we had developed our own home delivery service called Gourmet by Movenpick, which we did our own employees used for the delivery service. It helped them earn something and they valued it; They appreciated the fact that we weren’t with third parties, ”she said.

Developing target market

The introduction of Movenpick’s delivery service to local customers is one way to address the shortage of international visitors.

Other hotels have also resorted to local tourists, and this has helped the industry slowly but surely get back on its feet in recent months. Hotel chains across the island pushed for local credit card deal promotions ranging from 30% to sometimes 60%, and evolved to stay afloat. This of course resulted in strong competition in this arena.

Fernando changed his strategy from a city hotel serving nearly 90% international travelers and 10% local travelers to 180 while trying to differentiate himself from the competition. He shared, “What we can do to attract local customers have changed. Since everyone has changed their strategy to do this, you have to know how to be different. To do this, we create loyalty and give our customers added value. ‘She said that although room occupancy has decreased, the hotel’s dining facilities are busy for many days.

However, it is doubtful that the tourism industry can make a living from domestic tourism alone. While there was hope of opening airports to certain contingents of travelers – such as the 44,000 Russian tourists planned for this month – in “travel bubbles”, the new COVID cases, which have been more than 1,400 since October 3, these specified plans on hold.

A September 2020 report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) titled “Revitalizing Tourism Amid COVID-19 Pandemic,” states a scenario analysis of local tourists replacing foreign tourists based on the number of tourists (%) in Sri Lanka, the red zone is around -55%. This means that the ratio of the difference between outbound and inbound tourists to inbound tourists in Sri Lanka is -55%, which means that local tourists in Sri Lanka are not enough to offset international tourist arrivals.

The report goes on to say that India is Sri Lanka’s ideal regional partner in building a bilateral travel bubble with its largest partner. Even so, the results were dismal as the scenario analysis showed that; Assuming that domestic tourists who would otherwise leave the country would stay at home, the difference between international tourist arrivals and the total number of inbound tourists from the preferred business partner and their own domestic tourists divided by the total number of international tourist arrivals was found , a ratio of -50% for Sri Lanka.

Pan again for the future

When asked by Fernando about her plans for the future of the industry, she said, “Most of our plans have to do with what the government and the tourism board will do.”

With this in mind, Sri Lanka Tourism on Monday (12) estimates its efforts starting February this year in the form of the SLTPB’s Visiting Bloggers program, the Travel Influencer Campaign and the hosting of Family Travel Bloggers, have over 540 during the lockdown in the global arena Contributed to various travel blogs and popular social media platforms. The influencers have so far reached up to 6 million people worldwide. Their estimated total commitments as of August 10, 2020 were a massive 2,590,000. The total commercial value of this combined action is Rs. 30 million.

In addition, Sri Lanka Tourism has developed an action that will make Sri Lanka a “Still Fun & Safe” destination that will be ready to go as soon as the country announces it will reopen to international tourists, the SLTDA said.

It added that plans are underway to activate a special content-driven influencer campaign by Sri Lanka Tourism targeting key source markets for the destination Sri Lanka including the UK, Europe and other key source markets such as Australia, India, USA etc. Short term campaign, Sri Lanka Tourism expects collective support from leading travel influencers, especially those who have visited Sri Lanka in the past and who are able to create new travel content that will benefit Sri Lanka for millions of people worldwide.

Sri Lanka Tourism is committed to putting this beautifully abundant destination high on the list of potential travelers as the world’s post-COVID season begins.

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