Saturday, December 21, 2013
The Case of Geoffrey Dobbs – another misguided decision
It was reported that Geoffrey Dobbs a British/Australian investor in Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, was upset that the Australian Flag was flown upside down. He had reported it to the Governor of the Southern Province, Kumari Balasuriya, who had NOT done anything about it, and then he deliberately put the Sri Lanka Flag upside down, for which he was reported, and deported!
Any pea brained idiot in Sri Lanka will realize that what he did was to show how one would feel if one’s own flag was incorrectly positioned, as no one took notice of it until he wanted them to understand how he felt. To deport a man for that is unconscionable in any country, as the reasons were quite clear, because in Sri Lanka people are NOT sensitive to how others feel, only selfish for themselves. That was clearly demonstrated in this action. I also understand that after CHOGM he had attempted to return to Sri Lanka where he has assets and business interests and was refused entry.
Sri Lankans by and large were unsympathetic to his cause, and I must reiterate that I DO NOT know the man nor have I met him, nor has anyone he knows even egged me to write this blog article. It is purely mine from what I know of the man and of his businesses and my personal experience.
He was also instrumental and was the visionary behind the Galle Literary Festival, which did not happen in 2013, ostensibly because Geoffrey was ill, and there was no one who was capable of deputizing, and it looks like a no show this year too for 2014, as it is obvious GD is persona non Grata!
If that were a black mark on the SL tourism industry it would be one thing, however, the envy and jealousy of our local tour operators and tourism professionals to foreigners is definitely playing a part in this action.
Geoffrey unlike most of our local hot shot tourism ‘grandes’ really understands what it takes to attract high end tourists to Sri Lanka. I was fortunate to visit his high end boutique hotels at the height of the LTTE wars, and at all times his small and exquisite hotels were FULL and brimming with well healed tourists, who just stayed at his place and relaxed, not travelling around the country. He therefore was able to cash in on these clients, get repeat clients and get recommendations from satisfied clients, without resorting to a huge marketing spend, and keep his places full, and at US$400, a night THEN as in 10 years or more ago! Something unheard of and not done by our local operators.
Like all Aussies he was probably a little brash, and was able to keep some of the income overseas when bookings were made on line on overseas cards and payment gateways when local ones were not available.
It is this envy in wanting to put down a successful entrepreneur and I suspect the greed amongst some local wanna bes in Govt who want to get their dirty paws on some of his properties, is what may be driving this harassment.
Sri Lankan tour operators have NO clue in how to market Sri Lanka. They DO NOT know how to attract FIT travelers (independent US$1000 a day spenders) and provide the value services, which ensure repeats and recommendations. I have been to enough soirées in Western Capitals to know how dinner table conversations turn to where have you been on holiday this year? It is purely on recommendation that these wealthy travelers who can go anywhere they please choose their travel destination.
I remember some very famous names who stayed in Dobbs hotels, who were in the top of their fields, be it in politics, business, arts or academia, and who enjoyed the anonymity at his places, to stay there in the height of the LTTE battles. What a one up-man-ship for them to say they were in Sri Lanka last week for a relaxed ten days, when the news is all about war!
Like all of us GD may have had faults, which led people to dislike him, but as far as his service to Sri Lanka especially during the worst of our times there is NO dispute. This is NO way to treat a foreigner and I am sure a huge drawback to our tourist industry, because through the contacts that Dobbs made over the years, we may lose foreign investment in tourism as well as high spending tourists. It is therefore a great loss, and those answerable are those in the top of Govt in SL today, who are possibly the worst traitors of Sri Lanka who would rather the country suffer to satisfy their envy and greed. We must first decide if we want any foreigners in Sri Lanka, as if we do, we must know how to treat them. If we don;t that is fine too, but let it be done with transparency and not at the whim and fancy of some debauched bureaucrat or politician.
Remember, however much the LTTE were terrorists, they were Sri Lankan citizens who fought for land in Sri Lanka, not in buying up property overseas or fattening bank accounts in Switzerland, that all at the top engage in today. So the ruthless terrorists of today don’t give a rat’s ass for their country and would sell their mothers to the highest bidder, have no love for Sri Lanka, and are in the process of milking whatever potential we have in Sri Lanka.
I am sorry Geoffrey there is nothing I can do for you, just point out the anomalous and irony of life we lead in this Banana Republic. If you were our tourism adviser with teeth, we could be at the top of the game today, as none of our jokers have any vision of our potential. It is only high end tourism that will be of value in Sri Lanka. How many rich Indians do you think will fly in to SL in their private jets if we permitted them to fly direct to our provincial airports?
It is not 2.5M el cheapos that screw the hotels with low ball block rates, that are being constructed like monstrosities to pollute our skyline that we need. We have 200,000 beauty spots in Sri Lanka and if we have a small boutique hotel in about 5,000 of these places that is enough to bring in a minimum of US$5B in tourism, where there are 10 well trained and very well paid staff to serve each and every individual tourist. Today any well trained staff in this industry go overseas as the remuneration cannot be matched here. We therefore only offer third class service in our so called 5 star hotels. Trust me I know.
I have yet to be greeted, treated and served promptly and cordially and with respect by senior staff at these supposedly top end Hotels! I am not white by the way and so does that count against me?
I digressed a little, but I trust the reader gets the point of what I am trying to say.