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Government were 'slow’ off the mark

Government were 'slow’ off the mark

Frustrated by what he believes was a “slow” response to win back visitors by the state-run tourism authority, Fernando launched the private sector-backed Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance.

 

In just a few weeks, the group grew to more than 150 Sri Lankan and international tourism companies and bodies, including Jetwing.

 

The FCO’s advice was revised on 6 June, and through the alliance’s website, lovesrilanka.org, daily updates on improved security measures have appeared, with agents and operators able to receive a newsletter offering “a single point of credible information”.

Grassroots connection

Grassroots connection

The group is curating and sharing social media posts from travellers in the destination to tell “real, up-to-date stories” of life on the ground.

 

Fernando hopes to drive the consumer confidence in safety needed for the country’s tourism recovery.

 

“Confidence can come back quickly, especially as the British trade was so bullish with their support,” he smiles. “We just need clients to feel the same way.”

 

Regarding improved security, the alliance is lobbying the government to form “more joined-up” intelligence-gathering strategies for its anti-terrorism departments – steps Fernando believes are being taken.

 

Cooray advises agents wanting to support the destination to take advantage of “very attractive” airfares and hotel rates to entice customers back to Sri Lanka.

 

“It’s not too late to save the Christmas season,” says Fernando. “The day after the advice changed, it picked up. It will take a while to fill the order books, but we will get there together.”

Booking boost

Booking boost

A London travel agency took a £30,000, 17-night booking for a family as soon as the FCO’s travel advice for Sri Lanka was softened.

 

Nick Harding-McKay, director of TTG Top 50 Travel Agencies double winner Travel Designers, said: “They were ready to book, but when the ban came in, the trip was put on hold. As soon as the advice changed, they told us they still wanted to go and were ready to book. This just shows there is public confidence in Sri Lanka.”

 

Harding-McKay added a honeymoon couple had also resumed their Sri Lanka plans following the updated advice.

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