Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) conducted a series of Webinars for key markets in collaboration with the Sri Lanka High Commissions overseas, main associations of Sri Lanka and the private sector to keep key tourism stakeholders updated on the current situation in Sri Lanka and to obtain feedback from global media and Tour Operators in order to develop Post COVID 19 Promotional Activities for the respective markets.
This thrust in tourism is aimed at exploring Sri Lanka’s multifaceted treasure trove of resources, transforming the nation to optimum levels, from the globally hit fiscal crisis and shoot growth aggressively benefiting the country at large.
SLTPB organized a wide-scale Webinar on “Sri Lanka Tourism – Post-COVID-19” via online platform of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) with the support of Sri Lanka Embassy of Russia.
This webinar had 126 Tour Operators /Travel Agents registering from six countries including Russia as well as from other countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Iran, covering twenty-three cities.
The Webinar began with the opening remarks of H.E. the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation, Prof. M.D. Lamawansa. In his welcome remarks, he briefly described the recent activities of the Embassy aimed at promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination and highlighted the importance of increasing the number of arrivals of Russian tourists who have “a special place in the heart of Sri Lankan tourism”. He also drew the attention of the attendees to the significance of enhancing cooperation in spheres such as culture and education.
Senior officials from tourism-oriented authorities of Sri Lanka made presentations. One of the key speakers, Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of SLTPB, expressed the readiness of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry to welcome Russian guests; Yet, there is no set date for the opening of the international airports. A briefing pertaining to the guidelines the traveler needs to follow on arrival in Sri Lanka, was made clear to the audience. The Webinar participants were essured of the commitment of Sri Lankan Tourism Authorities, to do their very best to provide a safe and secure stay for tourist arrivals from Russia and other countries.
Director (Marketing) of SLTPB Dushan Wickramasuriya, in his update, mentioned positive dynamics on the Russian tourist arrivals, which experienced a 34% growth in 2019 despite the Easter Sunday attacks. He highlighted that, before the pandemic the Aeroflot airlines had 3 direct flights per week from Moscow to Colombo and expressed hope of the resumption of flights soon. The audience was informed of the strategic segments Sri Lanka intends to promote, particularly, beach-oriented vacations, the honeymoon market and family holidays. He referred to the Webinar as a great opportunity to start cooperating and establishing good communications between Sri Lankan and the Russian tourism sectors.
The representative of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism Demyan Smilevets, devoted his presentation mainly to the impact of COVID-19 on the Russian economy and tourism sector, the approach adopted by Russia to handle the pandemic situation and the criteria set for resumption of air connections with foreign countries. Smilevets also noted the longstanding friendly relations between Sri Lanka and Russia and established the fact that Sri Lanka is the preferred travel destination for many Russian tourists.
Mahen Kariyawasan (President, SLAITO) Sanath Ukwatte (President, THASL) Mervin Fernandopulle (Past President of ASMET) highlighted the importance of the market and steps taken by the private sector to cater to the current situation.
The program was concluded with a Q&A session, during which a wide range of questions were raised by Russian tour operators, who later described the Webinar as a very interesting and informative event that was useful for tourism organizations amid uncertainties caused by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Most of the questions raised were concerning the COVID 19 guidelines and health protocols.
Russia and CIS countries have shown year-on-year growth and the highest tourist arrivals from Russia was recorded in 2019 with 34% y-on-y increase in spite of the unfortunate Easter Sunday incident which took place in 2019.
On 17th September, an informative Webinar was conducted for key Tourism stakeholders of the Scandinavian region in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Embassy in Sweden and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Norway. The Webinar was hosted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) on their platform with the participation of the CEO of PATA Dr. Mario Hardy, raising a supportive hand for Sri Lanka. There were over 60 tour operators who participated at the Webinar were keen to obtain current updates on Post COVID 19 Tourism plans of Sri Lanka.
The main purpose of the Webinar was to highlight Sri Lanka’s achievements in controlling the pandemic as a nation and steps taken to ensure safety of tourists arriving in Sri Lanka, once the airport opens up for business. Also in the agenda was Sri Lanka recent endowment with the Safe Travel Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
SLTPB reminded the participants on the unique characteristics of the destination and tourism products offered by Sri Lanka as a preferred long-haul holiday destination for Scandinavian travelers. The opening remarks were made by Chairperson, SLTPB on the COVID situation and the effectiveness of managing the situation in comparison to the global state of affairs. This was followed by updates from the Ambassadors of the respective missions and other panelists.
The Webinar panel consisted of Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Lativa and Lithuania H. E Sudantha Ganegama Arachchi, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Norway and Finland H.E Godfrey Cooray, CEO, PATA Dr. Mario Hardy, Sweden Chapter representative PATA Lena Skogstrom, President, ANTOR – leading travel association in Norway, Sundt Bjerck, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism Kimarli Fernando, Director Marketing Sri Lanka Tourism Dushan Wickramasuriya, Market officer Sri Lanka Tourism for Scandinavian region Danojani Weeransinghe, President THASL Sanath Ukwatte, Member SLAITO Nishad Wijetunga and Past President, ASMET Mervyn Fernadopulle.
Scandinavia and the NORDIC region is an important region for Sri Lanka. The highest number of arrivals from this region was recorded in 2018. It is interesting to note that approximately 20% of the arrivals from Northern and Western Europe consists of Scandinavian travelers.
SLTPB has also connected with key tour operators in Pakistan with the support of the Sri Lanka High Commission where over 16 key tour operators from main cities including Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar participated in the Webinar. Promoting wedding tourism, introducing group packages for multiple segments such as luxury, honeymoon etc. Promoting incentives for groups of pharmaceutical, banking and insurance, were highlighted as key areas for Sri Lanka to focus on, going forward. Tour operators noted with great interest, the trends in annual tours from many high–end schools and higher education institutions.
In June this year, SLTPB collaborated with Spice Land Holidays and One World connecting with large group of tour operators, having over 7,000 registrations.
SLTPB plans to organize a webinar for key Tour Operators with the support of German Travel Association (DRV) in collaboration with Sri Lanka Embassy in Berlin. As a top-level association, DRV represents the travel industry in Germany which includes tour operators and travel agents. Germany having records of 70BillionEURO travel expenditure in 2019, SLTPB foresees the potential as a key tourism market in Post COVID 19 environment.
Going forward Webinars are planned by Sri Lanka Tourism in other European countries including Australia and also in Japan, China, and the Middle Eastern region.