Q: What are Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s (SLTDA) priorities for 2021/22?
A: The global tourism industry will continue to experience a huge shift in the way of doing business.

Our innovative bio-bubble concept launch in January was recognised at ITB Berlin. We hope this will boost traveller confidence.

Therapeutic destinations and experiential travelling are products Sri Lanka could exploit. Meanwhile, our valuable natural resources, culture and heritage must be protected due to their contribution to tourism while we shift our focus towards increasing the dollar spent a day a visitor for long-term economic growth.

Meanwhile, the authority must operate under one independent body to drive a sustainable industry, which represents three million stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on tourism.

Q: How is SLTDA planning for the medium term – i.e. for financial year 2021/22 – given the ‘new normal’ era that is now upon us?
A: With the closure of international borders, the domestic sector has been growing with more travellers wanting to explore their own backyard.

Meanwhile, we’re creating a travel app – with the World Bank’s support – which comprises a database with close to 5,000 experiences and sites to explore. This app will facilitate contactless travel and offer healthcare regulation updates at tourists’ fingertips.

We also constructed a 10 pillar strategy based on the national policy framework ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour.’ For example, we are in discussions with the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) about a partnership to create awareness about responsible tourism, and ensure a healthy coastal and ocean environment.

Q: In brief, what are the main challenges confronting corporates at this time?
A: Tourist arrivals declined due to lockdowns. However, recent studies indicate that the trend is to travel big when such possibilities arise. With wide-open spaces and a multitude of nature-based experiences, Sri Lanka has always been a favourite long haul destination with potential markets to develop.

SLTDA has ensured that Sri Lanka remains in the spotlight with features on CNN and BBC, and other prominent TV and print media. Travellers are gravitating towards that ‘big idea’ or ‘bucket list’ trip and Sri Lanka is at the top of the list for most. We’ll also promote the ‘work from your own tropical paradise’ concept to align with the ‘work from anywhere’ trend.

The pandemic has brought uncertainty to many industries – in particular, the tourism industry – resulting in forecasting and planning challenges. Therefore, the industry has to become dynamic to overcome the crisis, which Sri Lanka Tourism has shown through its agility and is effectively steering it through these difficult times.