NOW experiencing rapid tourism growth following the end of its civil war, Sri Lanka is pulling out all stops to woo Chinese tourists by intensifying its marketing and promotional efforts in 2013.
According to Ranjith Uyangoda, Sri Lankan ambassador to China, the Middle Kingdom has now become one of the country’s top source markets.
He said: “Chinese arrivals climbed 47 per cent from 2010 to 2011, while the figure is expected to rise another 52 per cent in 2012. China’s 77 million outbound travellers are a promising market. Earlier this year, the Sri Lankan government streamlined visa application processes for the Chinese, as well as other nationalities, through the introduction of an online (system).”
Among the slew of initiatives planned for 2013 is a destination advertising blitz across key Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Advertisements on Sri Lanka will be placed on public buses and in subway elevators.
In addition, the NTO will also market Sri Lanka more aggressively to the Chinese travel trade by hosting roadshows across China.
China’s rising importance as a tourism source market for Sri Lanka is reflected in the embassy’s move to grow its tourism department in Beijing from two persons to seven. The Sri Lankan embassy, which is tasked with destination promotion, is likely to receive 30-40 per cent more marketing funding for 2013, said Uyangoda.
Meanwhile, national carrier SriLankan Airlines is set to launch flights from Colombo to Chengdu in mid-2013, expanding its Chinese flight network from Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Chandima Senarath, executive of Aitken Spence Travels, which has seen a dramatic 60 per cent surge in Chinese inbound this year, said: “I’m definitely encouraged by the authorities’ efforts in China. Based on feedback, Chinese tourists are generally happy with Sri Lanka’s offerings, but the issue we need to tackle now is the lack of Chinese-speaking guides.”
According to Uyangoda, Chinese-speaking guides will be trained at the recently established Confucius Centres in Sri Lanka, while plans are being made to film a movie starring famous Chinese actors.