Although Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals continue to reflect an increase, the rate of growth appears to be slowing down, partly due to the crisis in the traditional markets, a top industry leader has warned. The visitor arrivals in the calendar year 2011 showed an increase of 30.8% when compared with 2010 whilst the cumulative increase up to April 2012 is 18.3% when compared with 2011. According to the Chairman of Dolphin Hotels PLC, A. N. Esufally for the industry to take off exponentially, in addition to infrastructure development, there are some key areas that need strategic focus at a national level.
Addressing shareholders at the release of the firm’s Annual Report for the year ended March 31, 2012, Esufally said that Sri Lanka as a destination needs to be branded, promoted and marketed on par with competing regional destinations, which is considered to be of paramount importance. Outlining other challenges, he said that the island needs to work on human resource development as it is vital to enable the provision of excellent guest related services.
“The approval process for the construction and expansion of hotels and other tourist establishments must be expedited and simplified. It is a slow, complex and laborious process at present,” the Chairman said adding that action must also be taken to protect the nation’s tourism assets from damage through over visitation, which is particularly applicable to the heritage sites, game parks and wildlife sanctuaries. He also noted the need for the government to also identify and demarcate of areas earmarked for tourism in order to prevent unplanned development occurring.
“The high spending Chinese market is one Sri Lanka must work on to capture, this will be no easy task as the brand conscious, tech-oriented Chinese traveler who spends the bulk of his holiday budget on shopping will currently find little of interest locally,” the management discussion and analysis section of the report identified.
The review noted that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has many challenges ahead since we were once a low cost destination although the rates are now on par with other popular tourist destination in the region.
“Thus it is vital that the proper investment is made in two key areas – customer service excellence and innovative value added services.
The former requires that formalized training be made available for those entering the hospitality industry - more hotel schools and training centers are an urgent need so that we can ensure that we are ready and able to provide the highest levels of customer service and F&B standards,” the review of Dolphin Hotels PLC, managed by Serendib Leisure Management Ltd stated.