Ever looked at a holiday spot and wished you could go
back in time and start over - knowing all the things you
know now? Through circumstances, few destinations have such
an opportunity but Sri Lanka is one that does.
With a strong breadth of product offerings and a united
industry that is eager to build a sustainable visitor base,
the country is seeking to build upon the launch of its new
brand image this year and to build lasting partnerships at
crucial events like World Travel Market and ITB.
Having visited Sri Lanka recently, I can attest to the
fact that it is "A Land Like No Other".
Yet it is useful to look at all the elements available
in the destination to enable better packaging of Sri
Sri Lanka, to me, has some of the best elements of each
destination in Asia - from beaches to culture to heritage
to food to natural beauty, in a compact area.
In its own mission statement recently, Sri Lanka Tourism
described its unique selling proposition as the following:
"Sri Lanka has a unique combination of its beaches; a 2,500
year culture; its historical ancient cities; its seven
world heritage sites; probably the world's eighth wonder in
Sigiriya; the tea-growing hill country; and the added
uniqueness that all this is within the reach of visitors in
a relatively small land area - an island country."
Sri Lanka has pieces of Asia which appeal to me - its
green tropical lushness, the golden beaches of a South-east
Asian destination mixed with a rich, warm South Asian
cultural blend; an ancient Buddhist culture and an
interesting colonial history and newly-acquired trade
Add the fact that the country is one of the few original
sources of Ayurveda, the "science of life", and that 13
percent of its land mass is designated for wildlife and
nature conservation - and you have a potentially potent
But the first thing you notice when driving through any
Sri Lankan hill town is that big smile. Sri Lankans I had
met previously were easy people to like and my visit there
confirmed this. They are smiling and gracious to strangers,
with a genuine interest in guests. As Peter Hill, CEO of
Sri Lankan Airlines, says, "In Sri Lanka, it's not a
plastic smile - it's genuine. We've got to continue to push
They also have an enjoyment of the good things in life -
food, dancing, music - which adds to the allure of a visit,
especially for a tourist. The best Sri Lankan ceremonies
are awash with fire dancing, bright coloured costumes,
frenetic drumming - and often a whole procession of
elephants adorned in finery.
Yet I also discovered a deep pride and appreciation of
heritage and for preserving some of the country's finest
assets, be it natural or cultural, giving its tourism
industry a chance of a sustainable future.
An ecotourism conference I attended in Dambulla was well
attended and debate over the way to protect and project the
country's biodiversity, to the level of "eco-friendliness"
of its hotels, was fierce.
While it has already much to be proud of - its hotels
and agents who are among the first to be granted Green
Globe certification - there appears to be real resolve to
lay strong foundations and attract the right types of
investors to avoid the "price trap" of other
Thus, a focus on culture and ecology and a move "beyond
beaches". And in a market demanding "deeper" travel
experiencing, it appears Sri Lanka's arrival "online" could
be well timed.