The Sri Lankan embassy in Washington is aggressively promoting the island nation as a tourist destination and Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya is upbeat on doubling arrivals to 45,000 in the next three years and to 100,000 by 2017.
"We are actively promoting Sri Lanka as a destination for tourism and investment. Statistics for 2011 revealed a total arrival of 24300 US tourists to Sri Lanka. This is compared to 19,000 recorded in 2010. This shows an increase of 28 percent over 2010. Our short term objective is to increase this number to 45,000 within the next three years while expecting, in the long term, arrivals of around 100,000by 2017," Sri Lanka’s envoy to Washington Jaliya Wickremasuriya told The Island Financial Review yesterday
He said that the Embassy plans to achieve above objectives by adopting the following measures:-
* Build awareness of Sri Lanka as a Leisure, Sports, Adventures, Eco Tourism and business travel destination to meet the government’s goal of 2.5 million tourists by 2016;
* Increase the number of tourists from the US to raise visitor numbers from 24,000 to 45,000 by 2014 to increase economic benefits.
* Generate and continue positive media coverage through electronic, print and social media positioning Sri Lanka as the world’s most treasured island;
* Combat negative perceptions and impediments to travel;
He said that the embassy was going in cash in on the US tourists to India. "The Embassy has undertaken a series of well coordinated events to promote Sri Lanka. It is imperative for us to inform US visitors what they could expect by visiting Sri Lanka. Nearly 300,000 US tourists visit India annually. More than half a million travel to Thailand. I always believe that distance is not the only reason that reflects a low turnout of US touriststo Sri Lanka. It is largely attributable to lack of sufficient flight connection to Colombo, the link from Sri Lanka to outside world. Of course in time to come there will be more flight connections to Sri Lanka," he said.
He said that young US tourists were very adventurous. They need to go to places which can offer special attractions. For example, with Arugam Bay emerging as one of the world’s premier surfing destinations more surfers consider Sri Lanka. Moreover, wildlife, our elephant orphanage, heritage sites and beautiful beaches, traditionally well-known Ayruvedic treatments are some of our other major attractions. In my view, disseminating information on these aspects could be the best in attracting US tourists to Sri Lanka.
Commenting on the promotions that the embassy has done, he said that under the image building programme the website – www.slembssyusa.org was fully restructured with a theme highlighting the beauty and tourist attractions of Sri Lanka. The flash movie opens with the homepage which shows a number of high quality images of Sri Lanka convincing the viewers to choose Sri Lanka as an attractive destination to travel. "We receive very encouraging responses from our viewers.The Search Engine Optimization was done applying key terms related to tourism and integrating the social media network, linking tourism related sites," he said.
In order to achieve the maximum dissemination of all positive news about Sri Lanka, the Embassy has established itself profoundly in all major social media platforms as follows.
* Facebook page – (https://www.facebook.com/slembassyusa) has over 1000 weekly reach for all its posts that has the potential to reach over 175,000 face book users connected to the network.
* All tourist promotional news/ videos/ pictures about Sri Lanka published in local and international media are posted to the page daily.
* The Facebook page has been designed as a hub to access other social media platforms of the embassy – You Tube, Twitter, flicker and Pinterest.
The Embassy has a dedicated You Tube channel for the travel and tourist promotion of Sri Lanka titled – "Wonder of Asia". (https://www.youtube.com/wonderofasia). This channel was launched in mid 2011 as an internet video resource for the promotion of Sri Lanka travel trade.
"Our Embassy utilises a list hosting service – Vertical Response to channel and distribute its messages to the targeted audiences. It also maintains a database of over 100,000 contacts categorized into number of lists such as International Media, Travel Writers, Sri Lanka Media, Sri Lanka Community, etc. on this list hosting account," he said.