Sri Lanka aims to attract more American travelers

August 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

Sri Lanka is on a drive to attract 100,000 American tourists by 2016 in a bid to woo part of tourist traffic to the Maldives and India and attract more up market travelers to the island, a diplomat said.

“We are working on an aggressive campaign to attract 100,000 American tourists to the Island by 2016,” Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US and Mexico said.
“I can see a huge interest in people wanting to visit the island,”

Sri Lanka has not been able to attract American visitors as much as Europeans mainly due to the geographical distance between the two countries and long hours of travel.

“Accessibility has been a problem because Sri Lanka is a long haul market for the US,” Vipula Wanigasekara, Acting Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.

“Lots of American tourists go to Vietnam because of links over the war. You have to have a very good reason to come on a long haul flight,” he said.

Sri Lanka tourism says with end of the conflict, Sri Lanka stands a chance to enter the North American and the Canadian outbound market but lack of direct flights, attractive multiple destination tour packages and budgets for promotions are hampering the potential.

Tour operators say multiple country tour packages covering Sri Lanka and Maldives or Sri Lanka and India will help to better attract American travelers.

The Sri Lankan embassy in Washington DC has initiated its own promotions to entice up market American travelers to visit Sri Lanka through a programme called the ambassador’s ‘signature tour ‘ where a group of American professional tours the island with the ambassador.

“These visitors take thousands of photographs and once they go back they posts them on social media sites and talk about the island with their families and friends,” ambassador Wickremasuriya said.

“Word of mouth is one of the best ways to promote Sri Lanka as they experience it rather than somebody trying to convince them to come,” he said.

Wickremasuriya says the embassy promotes Sri Lanka at all its diplomatic, trade and cultural events.

“We don’t number guest tables; we name them as Sigiriya, Trincomalee or Nuwara Eliya so that they get familiar with the different regions in the Island,”

“On every table we give a description about our festivals or traditional food on the menu,” he said.

Wickramasuriya said the tourism industry is expecting around 45,000 American travelers to visit the island this year.

North American arrivals to the island in 2011 including Canada rose 22 percent to 49,057 from a year earlier, statistics from the tourism office showed.

In the first six months of 2012, arrivals to Sri Lanka from North America rose to 27,355 from 22,753, up 20 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, the island’s tourism development authority said.

“Last year there was a huge increase in arrivals because there was no conflict and the country was safe,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said.

Arrivals from the North American market also include Sri Lankan expatriates.

Courtesy: Lanka Business Online