Uncertainty over Sri Lanka’s new tourism campaign amid constitutional crisis

A major constitutional crisis that resulted in the sacking of Sri Lanka’s prime minister has put in jeopardy the November launch of a new logo and slogan for the country’s new destination marketing campaign.

The campaign, So Sri Lanka, was scheduled to be launched on November 5 at the World Travel Mart (WTM) in London.

The long-delayed campaign was scheduled to be unveiled next month, before a global rollout in 2019

But president Maithripala Sirisena’s sudden dismissal of prime minster Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former president and current parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place last Friday has caused confusion in the administration. Furthermore, Wickremesinghe is also refusing to quit, saying that he was removed unconstitutionally.

Sirisena will be appointing a new cabinet of ministers today, comprising mainly members of parliament from his party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka People’s Front. The cabinet, which includes the tourism portfolio, earlier comprised mainly members of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party.

Both Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have been clashing over several issues in the past few months, with political analysts saying a parting of the ways was inevitable.

“I am not sure whether I would be going to office,” said a worried Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) managing director Sutheash Balasubramanian, adding that regardless of changes he hoped the campaign would go ahead as scheduled.

Balasubramaniam, like many other heads of government departments, are political appointees.

Industry officials have expressed concern over the developments and fears that the campaign would be further delayed.

“This is a great slogan – So Sri Lanka – and similar to Incredible India or Amazing Thailand. I hope despite the new developments that the government will go ahead with the launch in London,” said The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka’s president Sanath Ukwatte.

He said the industry has been anticipating the launch of this destination marketing campaign, which has been in the works for the past three years. Should the tagline and logo be successfully unveiled next month, the campaign was scheduled to officially start in early 2019.

Sri Lanka’s earlier campaigns were entitled Wonder of Asia, followed by Small Miracle. In recent months, the SLTPB has been involved in two smaller campaigns – an advertising blitz on CNN, and a digital marketing campaign directed at the country’s main markets of India and China, and Western Europe. These two campaigns will then feed into the So Sri Lanka campaign which will be undertaken on a global scale for all markets.

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