Negative portrayal hits SL tourism

Colombo, Oct 1: The exaggerated negative portrayal of the current situation in Sri Lanka is taxing the hard-hit tourism sector, making it increasingly difficult to move towards the path of revival, a newspaper said on Saturday.
Despite several attempts by the industry stakeholders to share the improved situation for tourists, so that they are cushioned against the challenges in the national economy, campaigns by certain NGOs to assist the country in its time of need are proving to be counter-effective, the Daily Mirror reported.
The tourism industry stakeholders shared that due to these campaigns, it was unfortunate that the key source markets were under the impression that Sri Lanka i not equipped to cater to the needs and wants of international travellers.
The participation at the IFTM in Paris was an eye-opener for the tourism sector, as it showcased the perception of destination Sri Lanka in the international platform, the report said.
?Having visited tour operators in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other key source markets, it is disappointing that the one common question asked is ‘does Sri Lanka have a food shortage?’ This is followed by ‘aren’t children facing malnutrition?’? said the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).
The campaigns carried out by the UNICEF, Lions Clubs International in Sri Lanka and various INGOs to collect funds to feed the children in Sri Lanka, using pictures of undernourished African children on their publicity material, have worsened the image of the island nation, the association said.
The SLAITO asserted that irresponsible statements from local government bodies together with images of street protests being quelled using force, the negative images going out into the world far outweigh any positive publicity efforts.
All this is at a time when the need of the hour is earning foreign exchange for our basic requirements, for which tourism is the ideal industry,” a SLAITO official said.
“We need the collective support of all Sri Lankans to help rebuild the tourism industry and in the process, to help to come out of this economic crisis, in a sustainable manner, by earning the required foreign exchange as opposed to depending only on handouts, the official said.