Sri Lanka cancels tradeshows as free VoAs for 45 countries rolled out

Galle Fort pictured

Sri Lanka has cancelled roadshows for the remaining year and instead relies on offering free on-arrival visas for 45 countries, including India and China, from August 1, to entice visitors back to Sri Lanka as the country’s tourism industry recovers from the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings.

According to tourism minister John Amaratunga, the free on-arrival visas offered to 45 countries was initially set to take effect from May 1, but was delayed due to the April 21 bombings of three luxury hotels and three Christian churches that killed more than 300 people, including 50 tourists.

Sri Lanka wants visitors back; Galle Fort pictured

Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau chairman Kishu Gomes noted that roadshows were being cancelled as some industry stakeholders felt that they are less effective and, hence, not a priority at this stage.

Large tourism businesses, essentially DMCs, are the ones opposed to roadshows, saying the government needs to first speed up its promotion and marketing campaign.

A new tourism promotion and marketing campaign worth 916 million Sri Lankan rupees (US$5 million) was originally slated to roll out in mid-July but has been delayed due to bureaucratic procedures, according to Gomes.

The decision to turn away from roadshow promotion has, however, also prompted outcry among members of the Sri Lanka trade.

Rasika Rajapakse, general secretary of Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism Sri Lanka (ASMET), said roadshows, which are subsidised to the trade, were vital to small businesses that are unable to expend large sums of money to participate in trade fairs.

ASMET is planning to appeal to prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the tourism minister John Amaratunga to restore roadshows, Rajapakse said.

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