Aitken Spence Hotels, one of Sri Lanka's biggest hotel chains with properties also in Maldives, India and Oman, has echoed a common lament in the industry: the absence of a proper destination marketing strategy.
Its chairman Harry Jayawardena, in the company's 2011-12 annual report, says that despite increase in tourism arrivals, earnings have not grown proportionately, "which signals that Sri Lanka is failing to attract the high yield traveller". He said this is largely due to the absence of a strategic destination marketing drive.
"Sri Lanka must act now to position itself in the eyes of the global traveller, through targeted exposure in a range of global media," Mr Jayawardena said adding that the country's tourism product currently falls well short of the required capacity to meet the target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016. He said lack of incentives to stimulate capacity expansion continues to be a challenge for hospitality operators.
The escalation in the cost of construction adds to the woes of the industry. "In the absence of a focused strategy, it is probable that the destination will fall short of capacity requirements and quality accommodation," he noted in thr report.
Mr Jayawardene said the government should provide state land for resort development to operators who have the capability and the experience to create resort experiences that are on par with the national tourism vision.
He also referred to the acute shortage of specialized human resources. "The lack of skilled personnel will be detrimental to service standards. The issue of human resource must be addressed in haste," his statement said.