SriLankan Airlines woos Indian tourists

BANGALORE: "Indian tourists were the second largest group to visit Sri Lanka for the year ended 2004, after visitors from the UK," said SriLankan Airlines (SLA) India manager Rohan Senaviratne during a Press Conference in Bangalore, recently called for the announcement of SLA's commencement of Beijing flights from Bangalore.



"In 2003, 128,000 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka, while in 2004 the number fell marginally to 112,000 as against 121,000 visitors from the UK for 2004," added Rohan. Bangalore sees a lot of traffic to China considering companies like Huawei Technologies have offices in the City and homegrown IT majors like Infosys and Wipro have offices in China. We expect our new route Bangkok- Beijing to contribute significantly towards our revenue targets."

The disposable incomes of Indians have gone up on the opening of the economy and hence India is seen as an attractive target for the world to focus on for sale of goods and services. Indians have started traveling and all the leading international airlines are looking at India today. India is the bread and butter for any airline today, says an airline executive working for an international airline.



SLA is focused towards India and is targeting the corporate and the leisure traveler, especially the traveler from South India. 65 of their 85 flights per week, covering 10 destinations, originate from South India.

The cabin factor of flights from South India is 85 as against an overall SLA Indian cabin factor of 60. The number of travelers from Bangalore to the Far East and Sri Lanka has increased and hence SLA has decided to increase the number of flights emanating out of there.



Considering India as their future, SLA has tried to identify the needs of the Indian traveler. SLA has been talking to Indian international travelers at Indian airports to understand their needs, the facilities they want, the type of food they prefer, and would like to come up with a new product to attract more Indians to their Airlines and to their country as well. They are likely to come up with a working plan by the end of this month as also a new marketing strategy for India.

Post tsunami, SLA had slashed rates to 50 per cent to Colombo for attracting more tourists to Sri Lanka. Rates to Maldives and Far East and Europe for attracting Indian travelers for a holiday, the outcome for which has been very encouraging as per SLA officials. Around 21,000 took up the discounted offer fro SLA

As reported earlier, an 'SriLanka Special offer' named 'Rediscover Sri Lanka' package aimed at holidaymakers who set out to discover SriLanka in association with Taj Group of hotels, Sri Lanka Tourism, and the Tourism Cluster were announced the launch to boost tourism in the country that is fast recovering from last year's Tsunami.

The $ 4.1 million Rediscover SriLanka campaign with the tagline 'SriLanka thanks the world for caring, and in return invites you over' spearheaded by SriLankan Airlines and the tourism board was released in international press and television channels on May 16, 2005.

The three and half month campaign will initially consist of commercials on pan-regional television in Europe, the Middle East, Far East, and South Asia followed by localized press advertisements in Europe, the country's major tourism markets.

An Internet campaign is also being conducted with banner advertisements on 25 major travel websites.

Among those involved in the production of the campaign were Grant McCann, Film Locations, Hit Factory, Video Image, Power House, and Vision Works, all in Sri Lanka, and VHQ Singapore.

As a commitment to rebuild the nation and accelerate tourism, SriLankan Airlines is providing US $ 2.1 million towards Rediscover SriLanka campaign along with supporting the campaign through series of media conferences in target markets to promote the campaign. SriLankan Holiday, a subsidiary of SriLankan Airlines is offering up to 20% off on holiday packages.

USAID, which supports the Tourism cluster, has pledged US $ 3 million for Sri Lanka's tourism recovery efforts, of which US $ I million will be towards the Rediscover Sri Lanka campaign.

"Our goal is to have 1 million tourists annually by 2010. The role of the Rediscover Sri Lanka campaign is to achieve these targets and possibly exceed them," said Mr. Rohan.

Sri Lanka achieved a record 566,220 tourist arrivals in 2004, surpassing Sri Lanka Tourism's target of 550,000. Sri Lanka Tourism is confident of achieving its even more ambitious target of 600,000 for 2005, despite the Tsunami.

SLA has tied up with Sahara India, Jet Airways and Indian Airlines in India for onward and connecting flights. They have also tied up with four carriers in China, viz., Air China, China Southern, China Eastern and Dragon Air to provide 87 additional destinations in China.

For the tri-nation cricket series featuring Sri Lanka, India and West Indies starting July 30 to August 10, SLA announced low cost packages with starting with a three nights in selected hotels for the Damballa and Colombo matches at basic rates ranging from US$91/- to US159/-. Some extras have to be paid on these charges. The rates include accommodation for 3 nights at selected hotels, daily breakfast for three days, transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle and a match ticket for one match.

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