Tourism in Sri Lanka needs a business approach now – MTI

Tourism, along with foreign remittances, offers Sri Lanka the fastest and most efficient way to increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves. To do this, Sri Lanka Tourism must make difficult and radical strategic choices.

According to MTI Consulting, the conventional approach to developing international tourism would be to first work on the brand positioning of the country, then launch Marcom campaigns and then let the Consumer (Tourist) respond. This works well when the country is in normal times and has the financial reserves to invest in brand development, hoping for longer-term returns.

But, given the nation’s desperation for foreign exchange earnings, there needs to be a very strong sales-driven approach. To do this, Sri Lanka needs to identify how and where the “low-hanging fruit” is, that is, the ones that can immediately translate into cash flow.

Based on an assessment of frontline opportunities conducted by MTI Consulting, the “low hanging fruits” are found in the MICE segments of the SAARC region, primarily India, with Pakistan and Bangladesh with potential significant untapped. After a nearly three-year hiatus (due to Covid), many companies are looking to motivate and energize their staff afterwards, through off-site conferences, motivational events and “entertrainings”. Sri Lanka, with direct flights from all major SAARC cities and less than 3 hours flying time from most of them, is well placed to attract these MICE events. (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions). Sri Lanka’s airport in the south and the new conference facilities built around it can be a boost.

To achieve this strategy, a very strong and impactful business approach is required. This means that everyone from the Minister of Tourism to Ambassadors, Chairs of Tourism Boards to their senior executives should be assigned MICE key accounts and set customer conversion goals. This means they all first need to map their target watersheds, identify leads, connect with key decision makers, and craft a strong sales pitch.

“There is no doubt that the country’s reputation has taken a hit in recent months, but many countries are going through such challenges and are recovering quickly. Think of Egypt, Thailand, France (Paris), Indonesia (Bali). Sri Lanka is an extremely resilient nation and has always bounced back from such challenges. The Ministry of Tourism now needs to focus on just two key enablers i.e. roll up its sleeves and start selling to bulk segments such as MICE and provide the industry with some of the foundations to operate like fuel and gas. Of course, we need to start strategizing, brand positioning and launching Marcom campaigns, but right now the house is on fire and you need a fire bridge, surgery emergency and first aid. So, as Richard Branson said, “Let’s go, let’s go!” said MTI Consulting CEO HilmyCader.

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