Senior tourism industry officials and heads of major leisure companies were in Germany this week for the world’s leading travel trade show, ITB Berlin. Tour operators, booking systems, carriers, airlines, hotels and car rentals are all attending the show, a prominent event in the global tourism calendar.
According to ITB Berlin, there are approximately 180,000 visitors of which there are 108,000 trade visitors and over 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries. Despite its vast size, ITB Berlin is clearly structured and enjoys worldwide media recognition in addition to offering comprehensive support for all marketing questions exhibitors might have.
The exhibitions are divided into different categories such as cruises, cultural tourism, adventure and ecotourism, wellness, youth travel and even gay and lesbian travel. Also included are economy travel and business travel.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has been ranked 116 out of 133 places rated by the National Geographic Traveler in December 2009. According to the story, this is the sixth annual survey of destination stewardship to appear in Traveler, conducted by the National Geographic Society’s Centre for Sustainable Destinations and revisits some of the iconic places first surveyed in 2003 and rates in April.
The author states that the condition of any destination is a mix of what local governments, residents and businesses can control – pollution, cultural quality and authenticity, tourism management — and what they can't such as natural disasters and global economic meltdowns. The survey is meant to be an assessment of authenticity and stewardship, evaluating the qualities that make a destination unique and measuring its ‘integrity of place.’
Sri Lanka’s coastal regions were given a score of 47 by Traveler, just above Angkor/Siem Reap in Cambodia and was listed under the ‘Places with Troubles’ category. Some of the comments from the panel which evaluated the different destinations in the article stated that Sri Lanka, hard hit by the 2004 tsunami and recent political troubles, will take many years to recover its tourism economy. Others felt it could be an opportunity to launch major sustainable initiatives such as tours of the tea and spice regions.
Panelists felt that Sri Lanka is a place with tremendous potential, built on its hospitality and cultural and natural heritage while also dealing with internal struggles which will have a long-term adverse effect upon its integrity as a destination. Others stated that when speaking with local people, one gets the true importance of tourism on the economy.
Panelists also stated that Sri Lanka does tourism very well but little seems to be invested in the local economy and infrastructure and in post-conflict solutions. The World Heritage sites in Galle and in other parts of Sri Lanka seem to be well managed, but there is poor infrastructure planning and management in other areas and inadequate linkages among different stakeholders in tourism.
Other comments stated that the public sector is not nearly as engaged as it should be to ensure responsible management of resources and different elements of the private sector do not work together well. The tourism industry here needs much more attention to environmental standards and to local ownership and benefits.
Of the 133 destinations, the top ranked with 85 points was the Fjords Region in Norway followed by the Kootenay/Yoho National Parks in British Columbia and the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. Rounding out the top five were South Island, New Zealand and Ancient Kyoto, Japan.
Destinations directly above Sri Lanka are Andorra, Beijing Historic Districts in China, Luxor in Egypt and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The worst rates place was Costa Del Sol in Spain with 31 points.