One of the highlights at last weeks World Travel Market in London, was a campaign launched by Sri Lanka Tourism (SLT) to woo western and UK tourists back to her beautiful shores. The campaign titled “Refreshingly Sri Lanka” is designed to re-introduce the country as a safe tourist destination, after the government defeated separatist forces and brought to an end 30 years of conflict.
The marketing campaign was timed nicely, as the country has received lots of good press recently, and western travel agents are flocking to get a piece of what Sri Lanka has to offer their travellers. Sri Lanka was named Best Value Holiday Destination 2010 in the Post Office Travel Money Review, released in September, and positioned as the No1 emerging luxury destination for 2011 by the New York Times.
The UK is second only to India as a source market for SLT, and although UK tourist numbers are currently lower than their Indian counterparts, UK tourists stay longer and spend more. This makes the yield per visitor higher as a result, and in turn makes the UK traveller the main focus of the “Refreshingly Sri Lanka” campaign.
Since the Home Office lifted all travel advisories/cautions for travellers going to Sri Lanka, the number of UK tourists has increased significantly. Although tourists were never harmed during the conflict years, travel advisories issued by several western European countries kept arrival numbers consistently around the 400,000 mark. This year (2010) overall visitor numbers have increased by 44%, UK tourists arrivals are also up 30% with forward bookings for the Christmas season indicating that UK tourists arrivals will surpass the 100,000 mark for the first time in many years.
January 2011 is also expected to see more UK tourists arrive for the Galle Literary Festival which boasts an impressive list of participants this year including the recently announced Nobel, Booker, Orange, Commonwealth and Whitbread prize winners as well as the best new, young and emerging writers.
Sri Lanka is well on her way to recovery. Even as western nations are struggling under a burden of debt, the country has seen foreign currency reserves more than triple since the end of the conflict in May 2009, and significant investments going into the tourism sector too. Global hoteliers Anantara, Six Senses Spas, Shangri-La Resorts and several others have already begun construction of new hotels and resorts on the island.