Friday, August 26, 2011

The sorry state of the TOURIST INDUSTRY IN SRI LANKA

I was reading a review recently of Maalu Maalu by a Sri Lankan family, who primarily live in the UK and have extensive travel experience in high class establishments worldwide. I therefore accept the fact that they are qualified to comment on the "Boutique" moniker given to a hotel on 2 acres on the Parsekudah Beach. There consensus opinion was that it was just a three star place that was charging 5 star prices.

This was a recently if rather hurriedly built place, that had been given full marks and rave reviews by the Sri Lankan travel trade. That immediately raised my antennae about the qualification of our travel trade to rate this place. I sadly came to the conclusion that most of those who visited this site were not seasoned travel professionals internationally, so were unable to judge the quality of the place with any relative comparison to overseas establishments and that their terms of reference was merely to hotels in Sri Lanka or a limited amount of hotels they may have stayed in overseas.

The service standards along with the price of star class boutique hotels are probably out of the reach of some of these travel professionals, while within reach of some of Sri Lanka's wealthy people. The Wealthy Sri Lankan in my view is better able to judge such a place than the travel professional and I believe they should be roped in to comment on the quality of these hotels some of which are owned or run by friends of these self same wealthy individuals.

What are we trying to do to tourism? In my opinion the Tourist Promotion Bureau of Sri Lanka, have not got a vision of what exactly they are trying to do. When one talks to some of the bosses of the tourist trade they have differing opinions on what needs to be done, who should be attracted to visit Sri Lanka, and what kind of tourist product Sri Lanka should offer. These issues are reflected in the complete breakdown of the direction that tourism is going. It was rather unexpected that at this time of year there are so many hotel rooms (overpriced) that are vacant, despite the paucity of rooms. That is an indictment in itself of what is happening, as no one would have thought that with the safety and security that is guaranteed in Sri Lanka tourism would have dropped to this level of occupancy.

The answer may lie in the fact that the value of money destination has disappeared overnight, due to the hiking up of rates with no commensurate improvement in service standards that seem to be dropping instead of rising. This does not bode well at all for the future, and the usual pontifications of the Ministers, completely oblivious to the current state of play does not help the cause as they are full of hot air, with no evidence to back their claims.

I believe we can arrest this rot, if we are able first to identify that we have actually fallen into a pit of our own making and then do something about getting out of the pit with a renewed energy and vigor going about it in an enlightened way.

I believe we should start this with identifying who our tourists should be? Once we know who we should attract, then we can design the product to suit that market. I am opposed to the buckshot approach. We have decided to reduce the carbon footprint. So we should start with that premise. The first being tourist with lowest carbon footprint, NAMELY INDIAN TOURISTS.

If my memory serves me right there are about 12million Indian overseas tourists a year and we do not even attract 1% of that. Our goal should be to attract 10% of the Indian tourist market offering direct flights to the destinations within a maximum of 3flying hours to the destination, whilst at the same time opening up a number of airports just to the Indian clientele, giving them significant privileges of visa free travel. Then the high end Indian can fly in their personal jets with their families to China Bay in Trincomalee and be ferried to the hotels on Nilaveli Beach for the weekend and they can theoretically have a better holiday with fewer crowds than they can experience anywhere on earth. This quick holiday that is exclusive can command a high price tag as long as the service is to match, so that they are picked up in Land Cruisers as soon as the plane lands and be whisked off to the hotels.

We must think outside of the box in catering to this High Net worth individual. If they want the Casino effect they just need to fly to Colombo and the needful can be done there. Sri Lanka offers something for every one so all tastes can be catered to as long as the service standards are matched to the pricing and then there will be self generating traffic from those who have already experienced a fabulous holiday in Sri Lanka.

In order to keep this note brief I will not elaborate as to other ideas, on how to increase the value addition of Tourism which is the key we should concentrate on and not the numbers game. This is just one example of what can be done and it is not too difficult to think of others that are similar that will yield huge advantages to the Tourism Industry.

Lets currently fire all the Industry professional and start from scratch as these old dogs cannot be taught new tricks, and as long as they are around interfering in policy issues nothing concrete will come of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment