‘Sri Lanka Tourism totally out of focus at WTM’

By Harischandra Gunaratna
recently in Limerick, Republic of Ireland

A successful tour operator in the Republic of Ireland of Sri Lankan descent, Micheal O’brien, living in Shanon, West Ireland, in an interview with The Island recently said this year’s was the worst show in recent times by Sri Lanka Tourism at the World Travel Mart in London.

"The authorities had absolutely no focus, passion nor drive and it gave the impression to the stakeholders and the organisers of WTM in London that the authorities were no longer interested in promoting the country as a destination, he said.

"Sri Lankan needs a cohesive plan and a strategy to woo holidaymakers and absorb think tanks who are adept with the subject without leaving the task in the hands of political appointees who have little or no knowledge on tourism," O’brien opined.

He added that during the last decade the destiny of the industry had been left in the hands of such people and it is no wonder that they have failed to deliver other than feathering their own nests.

O’brien who spoke to the The Island at the picturesque Cliffs of Moher said, "The authorities have failed to understand how important it is for Sri Lanka to attend key international buyers and sellers fairs held in different parts of the world including fairs like WTM at a juncture where the country is pitted against more established destinations, such as, Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, Cambodia and emerging markets like Vietnam and Myanmar. "We are lagging behind them. Perhaps for some of the authorities and politicians, attending these fairs was a mere joy ride, he added.

"Our authorities should take a cue from their counterparts on how focussed and passionate they are in promoting their countries as a destination.

"This proved the point that ignorant politicians should be kept away from such events of great importance for Sri Lanka at a juncture at which the country is struggling to get more holidaymakers, he said.

O’brien said at the ITB Berlin held in March this year the then Tourism Minister made a complete mess of the joint press conference held by Sri Lanka Tourism and SriLankan Airlines and he was either ignorant about what our tourism industry had to offer holidaymakers or was more keen and adament on telling the foreign journalists how incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena won the January 8 presidential election.

"In this part of the world not much awareness had been created about Sri Lanka’s tourism product though I have made an individual effort to promote the island nation as a destination, O’brien said adding that Sri Lanka should come down on the prices in a competitive market as countries, such as, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Singapore, the Maldives and emerging markets like Vietnam and Myanmar are far ahead of us in product quality and service.

"Hence, we cannot be complacent and should attempt to improve our product in a manner we could compete with more established markets, the veteran tour operator said.

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