Sri Lanka to promote Colombo as a tourism hub in South Asia through global best practices
Sri Lanka Tourism is reportedly planning to develop a ‘city tourism’ strategy to position Colombo as a tourism hub in South Asia.
This initiative will follow some of the best practices of national tourist boards in Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, etc., in order to strategically implement forward-thinking policies and uplift the family entertainment sector through the easing of taxation for luxury brands, development of locations, and provision of international entertainment venues and facilities, the Daily FT has reported.
The ‘city tourism’ (urban tourism) strategy is to also focus on developing and enabling Colombo to host high quality international events – that are globally proven to be a successful in city marketing and branding.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has been quoted as saying, “Keeping in line with the vision of the Government to make Colombo a tourism hub, we have taken some proactive steps to make this a reality. Last year, the budget announced some great tax benefits to encourage international luxury brands to make a presence in the Sri Lankan market. We have seen shopping as a key motivator for intra-regional travel and having brands that can pull international visitors is a key component in our strategy. Whilst ensuring that we protect all our local brands, we identified a way to make those international brands more competitive than in other parts of Asia, and thereby provide a compelling reason for regional tourists to visit Colombo.”
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando has reportedly said, “In most developed tourism destinations, ‘city based’ tourism plays a very critical role in attracting international visitors. While this trend of ‘high quality event promotion’ is very visible in Europe and America, it is also highly evident in advanced Asian tourism destinations such as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. as well. With the addition of Port City making Colombo a business hub, it is imperative that we now develop Colombo as a city tourism hub.”
The core benefits expected via the city tourism strategy include: direct foreign exchange earnings from artists/events and indirect earnings through ancillary services; increased traffic from the MICE tourism segment; boost in the employment and creative sector; addressing issues of seasonality and visitor dispersal; and the possibilities of promoting Sri Lanka as a 365-day travel destination.
“At present less than 35% of the tourists arriving in Sri Lanka visit Colombo. However, we have the highest room inventory and the largest investments are taking place in Colombo. We have also seen the trend of increased visitors from India and the region in the last few years. This will make Colombo an ideal tourism hub for shopping, family entertainment, great food and beverage experiences along with MICE tourism, once the world is conducive for travel post the effects of COVID-19. This strategy is expected to welcome an additional two million tourists within the next five years, enabling us to reach the targeted $ 7.5 billion earnings from tourism at the end of the five-year global tourism promotional campaign period.”
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country when the global Covid 19 pandemic lockdown last year brought about restrictions in global travel. The country’s tourism industry once again started to gradually kick start after Sri Lanka reopened its borders in January this year. Sri Lanka being listed as a must visit destination by several leading global travel publications and receiving the safety and hygienic certification have made the island an attractive travel destination amidst Covid 19. Given moves to build Colombo as a tourism hub in the region, foreign businesses/investors could explore business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.
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