London boosts confidence on tourism recovery

Friday, 9 August 2019

Two independent UK-based tour operators- Travel Gallery and Experience Travel Group hosted “Sri Lanka Revival” on 16 July in London.The event, focused on encouraging holidaymakers to return to the beautiful paradise isle, drew in over 90 UK tour operators, 40 journalists and 50+ representatives from Sri Lankan hotels and Destination Management Companies (DMCs).

“The clear message which we wanted to convey was that Sri Lanka is open for business, safe, just as beautiful, packed full of experiences and offering the warmest of welcomes to travelers and holidaymakers,” said Farzana Marikkar Dobbs, the founder of Travel Gallery and The Rosyth Estate House – a boutique hotel in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka depends heavily on the tourism sector (it’s third highest foreign exchange earner, on track to become its highest) for equitable growth that generates sustainable jobs across the value chain and around the country. The 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks had a substantial and immediate impact on tourism inflows to the country- tourist arrivals slumped 70% in May and 57% in June versus last year. Reuters estimated that the country faces lost tourism revenues of USD 750 million this year.

Against this bleak backdrop, Farzana and her husband Neil Dobbs alongside other private sector players worked tirelessly to lobby the UK Foreign Office to get the Travel Advisories lifted.Recognizing that it would be a major task to get bookings flowing again after the advisory was downgraded, they seized the opportunity to cut through the noise and communicate directly to tour operators, holidaymakers and the media, organizing the large-scale event in London with the backing of their trade organization, AITO (The Association of Independent Tour Operators).