Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is aiming to capitalise on growth from the Australian market, with the tourist board set to appoint a local representative in the coming months to maintain destination awareness in this region.
The move comes as Sri Lanka Tourism prepares to reveal a new country brand at World Travel Mart in London in November.
In Sydney earlier this week at the Travel Industry Exhibition, Sri Lanka Tourism Managing Director Sutheash Balasubramaniam told LATTE that Australia was “an important market to us”.
“We have eight primary markets and Australia is one of those,” he said prior to a press conference to usher in the start of the 2018 Travel Industry Exhibition. Australia is around the sixth largest market for Sri Lanka, and sits behind the likes of traditional European markets – the UK, Germany and France, along with emerging markets such as India and China.
“We haven’t done much work in Australia, until now,” Balasubramaniam explained.
“Australia has shot up and is about sixth in market ranking. We see a lot of potential, and one the reasons I am here is to study this market. We really want to grow this market. There are a lot of positive vibes about Australian travellers wanting to visit Sri Lanka.”
The Colombo based tourism chief said Australians are steadily increasing their knowledge of the destination in the Indian Ocean, but more feet on the ground will amplify the message.
“It’s taking them some time to get to know about Sri Lanka, but fuelled by new air capacity with SriLankan Airlines into Melbourne, our Australian visitor numbers have grown by about 30%, which is huge,” Balasubramaniam remarked. (SriLankan Airlines recommenced flights to Australia following a 16 year hiatus in November 2017.)
He suggested the country’s “uniqueness” and “compactness” was a major drawcard for travellers.
“All that you can find in Asia you can find in Sri Lanka. It’s great value for money. We are rich in terms of nature, culture, cuisine, experiences and activities.
“We have one of the only lowland rainforests in the world, the only other being in the Amazon. We have amazing wildlife. Where else in the world can you see the world’s largest mammal, the Blue Whale, in the morning, and then the largest land mammal, the elephant, in the same day?” Balasubramaniam added.
Sri Lanka also has 14 national parks and six UNESCO parks, and has its fair share of experiential tours, ranging from adventure to climbing, hiking, biking, trailing, white water rafting and hot air ballooning. No wonder Sri Lanka is the fourth fastest growing market in the world, only trumped by Singapore, Austria and Portugal.
“We have amazing beaches – more than 650kms of white sand beaches – which are another drawcard for Australian travellers”.
“Increasing connectivity is important to us, so we are talking with some airlines who may want to partner with us, in addition to our national carrier. Singapore Airlines is one carrier we are talking with, not only for the Singaporean market but to other destinations, which includes Australia,” he revealed.
Meanwhile on the trade front in Australia, Balasubramaniam told LATTE he had met with officials at CATO and AFTA earlier in the week, saying Sri Lanka Tourism will become a member of the Council of Australian Tour Operators.
Also speaking at the Travel Industry Exhibition launch was Sri Lanka’s Consul General Lal Wickrematunge, who told LATTE the destination offers an alternative to a Bali holiday for Aussies.
“Australians I think have done Bali. They are tired, they are looking for new experiences and with a direct flight available through SriLankan Airlines, Sri Lanka is now on their radar,” Wickrematunge said.
SriLankan Airlines’ Manager Australia & New Zealand, Sanjeeva Jayatileke, noted that the make up of travellers flying on the Melbourne route has changed, from an initial ethnic mix to “a lot more Australians” flying for leisure purposes.
Jayatileke also flagged “hopes” for “multiple points in Australia”, but said it was key to ensure the Melbourne-Colombo route remains sustainable “before we look at other destinations”.