Tourism to be key in restoration of economic stability in Sri Lanka

Interview with Suranga Ratnayake, Chief Operating Officer, Aitken Spence Travels
/ New Delhi
Tourism to be key in restoration of economic stability in Sri Lanka

Amidst the economic crisis, Sri Lanka recorded 47,293 tourists in the month of July

In an interview with India Outbound, Suranga Ratnayake, Chief Operating Officer, Aitken Spence Travels, says that as Sri Lanka is now ready to welcome international travellers, Aitken Spence will launch digital marketing campaigns to rigorously promote Sri Lanka and Aitken Spence overseas.
5/5 - (2 votes)
Suranga Ratnayake

Suranga Ratnayake

What is the current situation of travel in Sri Lanka? Has tourism restarted?

Amidst the economic crisis, Sri Lanka recorded 47,293 tourists in the month of July and we see a steady pick up month on month. All private/ government institutions and schools have reopened now, and transportation services have been restored to the pre-pandemic levels. National Parks, cultural sites and all other tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants are open for both, the public and tourist visitors. Notably, gas, fuel and other essential commodities are available throughout the country.

Further UK, France, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have now lifted their travel advisories. Further some of the major German tour operators have recommenced promoting Sri Lanka as a holiday destination.

The last few months have been very topsy turvy. After a strong start to the year, how badly has it been for travel industry?

Sri Lanka has been a resilient country throughout its journey of tourism. The 30 year conflict, natural disasters such as the 2007 tsunami and floods, pandemics and then the recent economic crisis, which was amongst the hardest for us, in all of these Sri Lanka has shown its resilience like a phoenix rising from its ashes. We have always been a nation that will look at things positively.

Now that the country is stable, confidence is being built progressively. This is evident with the lifting of travel advisories by some of the main source markets. We are geared to welcome all with our traditional Ayubowan and the Sri Lankan smile, not forgetting that aromatic cup of ‘Sri Lankan Tea’.

Even though the tourism sector lost a lot of talented and skilled workers during the pandemic, the tourism stakeholders have used the downtime to improve their services, educate and train their staff gearing for the positive days ahead. As a company, we too have implemented improvements to our own minimum standards of services by conducting inspections and visits to accommodation and excursion providers, updating our supplier databases, and ensuring that all of our suppliers are in compliance with all protocols while keeping in mind the best interests of the traveller.

How did you handle tourists at the peak of the political crisis?

As the largest DMC in Sri Lanka, the number of clients who were in the country during the political crisis was considerable. But, we ensured that our guests were properly taken care of and with utmost safety. None of our clients faced any issues, nor faced fuel shortages or any other challenges.

Our staff was in regular contact with the clients, we kept a close eye on their itineraries and their movements. Our chauffer guides were at liberty to advise our clients during that time to travel or stay in the hotel and opt for different excursions.

Aitken Spence Travels has been in business for over 45 years and we are a responsible organisation. Our clients are our first priority and taking care of our guests is part of our DNA. We take every precaution for the safety of our clients while guiding them to enjoy the simplicity, diversity, and the natural beauty the country has to offer.

What is your expectation for the rest of the year and 2023?

The government should work harder to expedite lifting of the travel advisories from the remaining source markets. They need to embark on a Destination Sri Lanka digital campaign soon and engage in the major tourist road shows to build on positive PR.

We, as an organisation, will be part of these road shows, as well as conduct our own promotions. We will ensure there is visibility for the Aitken Spence Travels brand at the upcoming prominent trade fairs.

Further, we will explore joint promotions with airlines flying into Sri Lanka to offer attractive deals to promote the destination as done in the past, specifically targeting India due to its proximity and connectivity. Further we expect the airlines will look at the destination positively by restoring their scheduled flights and routes.

How are you preparing for the revival of tourism?  

In the revival phase of tourism, we will focus on our training for service excellence. Our staff is continuously being trained. We will conduct product familiarisation tours to our agents to get first hand experience the latest developments in the product offering. Further audits will be conducted to ensure that all service providers are meeting the service standards upholding the thought of ‘customer is king’.

We believe any nation will take a bit of time to dust themselves, build confidence and gain trust of its holiday makers seeking a vacation in an island nation. Sri Lanka is an island paradise in the Indian Ocean. Its diversity can not be compared to many countries, and it definitely should be on the bucket list of a traveller to explore as we topped the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2019. Also, Colombo was the ‘Most Photograph travel destination for 2019’, according to The Sun newspaper in the UK and ‘Sri Lankan Cuisine’ ranked number 1 on the BBC Good Food Trends for 2019. In addition, Sri Lanka was also ranked ‘The best Island in the World’ by Travel Leisure, reminding the travellers that these accolades were the voices of the elated traveller.

Why we say this is that Sri Lanka is a country that has a rich cultural history of over 2500 years, sandy beaches across the country, lush green fauna and flora, mystic mountains with the tea estates and an abundance of wild life parks to enjoy nature at its best.

We are confident that tourism will rise to be a contributor to the country’s economic stability by having a healthy and safe background for tourists to visit Sri Lanka.

You may also like
Sri Lanka tourism
Sri Lanka tourism hits record high with surge in Indian visitors
Jaffna MICE Expo 2023
Sri Lanka to host inaugural Jaffna MICE Expo 2023
Sri Lanka global brand campaign at WTM
Sri Lanka to launch new global brand campaign at WTM
SriLankan Airlines
SriLankan Airlines bags two awards at SATA 2023

Leave a Reply

Get Magazine