Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Sri Lanka strikes defiant tone with tourism recovery plan after attacks

Country hires experts to rebuild its reputation as a tourist destination

A Sri Lankan Army soldier stands guard outside the St. Theresa's church as the Catholic churches hold services again after the Easter attacks in Colombo on May 12, 2019.  AFP / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI
A Sri Lankan Army soldier stands guard outside the St. Theresa's church as the Catholic churches hold services again after the Easter attacks in Colombo on May 12, 2019.  AFP / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI

Sri Lanka, reeling after multiple suicide bombings killed 250 people three weeks ago, hired crisis management experts to help salvage its $4.4 billion tourism industry as travelers cancel their bookings.

The Indian Ocean island is working with a team of experts in destination reputation management and crisis recovery that have successfully helped troubled travel brands in Egypt and Germany, Sri Lanka's tourism board said in a statement on Sunday. The move is part of a wider plan to restore confidence in the country's security and readiness to receive visitors.

"We are now aggressively planning to reassure the world of our levels of preparedness and setting the groundwork for future reputational recovery work by reassuring tourists that all appropriate steps are being taken by the Sri Lankan Government to prevent any future incidents and ensure the continued safety of tourists within the country," Kishu Gomes, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism, said.

Tourism in Sri Lanka, which accounts for five per cent of the country's gross domestic product, has taken a hit as tourists, fearing more attacks, have cancelled flight and hotel bookings. The tourism industry is critical for the country as the third-highest revenue generator, on which an estimated 500,000 people depend for their livelihood. The island is popular with tourists from the Arabian Gulf during public holidays and longer getaways and has been named Lonely Planet’s destination of the year.

The team of reputation management experts, which it did not name, have previously worked with Egypt's tourism ministry following terror attacks in the country and Lufthansa's discount arm Germanwings after its flight crashed in the Alps in 2015 killing 150 people.

"W are developing a holistic reputation recovery plan based on data and research for each of the key markets, this will be followed by an intensive global marketing campaign to further accelerate the recovery process," Mr Gomes said.

Sri Lanka is forecasting a 25 per cent decline in the number of visitors in 2019 compared to last year due to the Easter Sunday attacks expects tourism to rebound as the military intensifies security efforts, Mr Gomes told The National in April.

Updated: May 12, 2019 11:37 PM

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