Sri Lanka should adopt extreme tourism targeting, covering high-end and backpackers

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry can adopt extreme targeting, covering not only the high-end but also the lower end backpackers, an industry professional said.

“They are more prone to travel during this period. It is about targeting early adopters both consumers and logistics/market-wise,” Vickum Nawagamuwage Founder CEO of Santani Wellness Resort told a recent webinar.

He also mentioned that there is an idea about attracting high spending tourists to revive tourism even though the country has less than 300 room nights that can sell over USD 400/500 per night.

“What is important is not high end or low end but differentiated products covering all end. Many high-end products are not profitable. We need to understand competition at each price point and provide alternatives that are truly Sri Lankan so that we don’t have to compete on price.”

He was speaking at a webinar organized by PwC Sri Lanka and Daily FT recently.

Leading experts in the tourism industry- Mikael Svensson, the Sector Head of the Cinnamon City hotels and Executive Vice President of John Keells Holdings PLC, Vickum Nawagamuwage Founder CEO of Santani Wellness Resort, Thilan Wijesinghe Director Ceylon Tea Trails (Private) Limited, Director Resplendent Ceylon (Private) Limited and Director Serendib Leisure PLC,  Nalaka Amaratunga  Chief Executive Officer Destination Management Sector, Vice President John Keells Group and Executive Committee Member of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators gave their opinions.

The session was moderated by Thivanka Jayasinghe Partner PwC Sri Lanka and assisted by Kavinda Weerakoon Director Mergers and Acquisitions PwC Sri Lanka.

To kick the webinar off, Thivanka presented an overview of the industry and its importance to Sri Lanka, including key statistics. He also highlighted that a study published by the World Travel and Tourism Council in April 2020 predicted an estimated one hundred million job losses in the global tourism industry.

The same study had also highlighted that the contribution to global GDP will also be negatively impacted by 30% which amounts to USD 2.7 trillion. He ended the presentation quoting the Airbnb CEO, who had stated that post-COVID-19, “people will want options that are closer to home, safer and more affordable but people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them which is the human connection”.

“Don’t waste the crisis” Mikael explained the second step taken by his team after the decision to temporarily suspend operations at all of their properties in Sri Lanka and the Maldives to ensure the safety and health of employees. This allowed the team to use the downtime to relook and re-assess how things were done operationally as well as how the hotels should be marketed. The team was focused to ensure that decisions taken will not hurt the properties in the long run purely for short term gains.

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