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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » DAILY CHRONICLE™ » Sri Lanka tourism urges Europeans to ignore bad media reports

Sri Lanka tourism urges Europeans to ignore bad media reports

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Redbulls

Redbulls
Director - Equity Analytics
Director - Equity Analytics
June 10, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tourism chief is urging European businessmen to ignore negative media reports in their home countries that highlight the island's human rights record and may lose them investment opportunities.

The Indian Ocean Island is experiencing a boom in tourists and leisure industry related-developments, three-years after government forces ended the decades long conflict with ethnic Tami Tiger separatists.

Many international chains have put down cash to build hotels and resorts across the tropical island, while the government sets about building infrastructure to support the tourism boom.

Nalaka Godahewa, who heads Sri Lanka's Tourism Development Authority said while European businessmen pass-up an opportunity to invest in Sri Lanka, Chinese and Indian investors have moved in to fill the void.

"Ours is a virgin market. Unfortunately what’s happening is the Europeans are holding back," Godahewa was quoted in an interview with a British newspaper.

"They’re listening to all these media stories talking about a problem in Sri Lanka

Human Rights
Western governments have often been critical of Sri Lanka human rights record, particularly the way the island handled the final months of its ethnic conflict.

International human rights groups also accused Sri Lanka’s military of allegedly committing war crimes during the final months of the war that ended in May 2009.

In March the UN Human Rights Council moved a resolution against Sri Lanka over its no-holds-barred military offensive.

Rights groups estimate that tens of thousands civilians also died in the final offensive, but Sri Lanka maintains its troops did not kill civilians.

London-based Amnesty International has accused the government of abuses including a campaign to intimidate peaceful critics since the end of the war, while minority Tamils say they face discrimination and abuse.

Bad press

Sri Lanka has repeatedly dismissed this criticism, and Godahewa says European investors should also ignore them.

"By the time the European investors come, it will be too late. So my message is don’t listen to these media stories, come and see for yourself and grab the opportunity now," he said.

International hotel chains like Hong Kong-based Shangri-La, the Sheraton and Four Seasons have signed up to develop luxury properties in Sri Lanka.

In 2010, Sri Lanka had some 22,000 hotel beds, enough to accommodate about 900,000 tourists. By 2015, Sri Lanka plans to add 45,000 rooms, according to tourist board figures.

"There are other requirements, things like theme parks, racecourses, casinos, yachts, marinas, and light aircrafts. There are so many things that are not there yet and can be built in the next three to four years."

Since the war ended in 2009, Sri Lanka has forecasted a five-fold increase of 2.5 million foreign visitors by 2016, who will generate some 2.75 billion dollars in revenues.

"Tourism is most directly affected by international perceptions, and tourism is a key economic driver for the country," Godahewa said.

New experience

While English, a language inherited during colonial times, is widely spoken throughout the island, the tourist board is encouraging people to learn Chinese.

"We are also promoting the Chinese language, as by 2035 China will be the largest economy in the world."

Godahewa said tourism promotions are now centeredaround “eight experiences within eight days."

"There are eight types of tourism products that we promote: business, heritage, wildlife, yoga and religious tourism, festivals, sports and adventure, scenic beauty, and the eighth is our essence, the feeling of being in Sri Lanka, our customs, costumes, dancers, music, and the smile."

Historically, Europe, led by Germany and the UK, have been Sri Lanka’s strongest tourism market. But the number of holidaymakers from those destinations slipped during the war, though no tourist was hurt.

Sri Lanka, has since turned to emerging markets like India, China, Russia and the Middle East to fill empty hotel rooms.

"We are a primarily European driven market ….. The UK is definitely a key market, and remains our second biggest market after India," Godahewa added.
http://lbo.lk/fullstory.php?nid=692916170

Kumar

Kumar
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Bad media reports?
Without base media is writing anything adversely?
Cover up drama won't help.

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