Sri Lanka's tourism strategy should focus on consistency in branding

16 November 2018 Consultancy.asia

Sri Lanka’s tourism body should focus on consistency in branding says the CEO of MTI Consulting Hilmy Cader, with a strategy-first approach.

As the island nation of Sri Lanka continues to gain prominence as one the world’s hottest tourist destinations, recording international arrival growth of over 20 percent in Colombo in 2016 according to a report from Horwath HTL, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has unveiled a new brand identity at the recent World Travel Market trade show in London, under the banner of ‘So Sri Lanka’. 

Created by advertising agency JWT Sri Lanka and Landor Singapore, the fresh brand identity aims to capture a sense of the nation’s rich biodiversity along with its wealth of experiences on offer, with the coinciding multi-channel campaign – stated as a strategic digital-first perspective – targeting the millennial demographic in key markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

“We envisage that tourism will flourish to be the most significant sector contributing to our economy – that’s the goal we aspire to reach in the next few years,” said Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism and wildlife, Vasantha Senanayake. “The launch of the So Sri Lanka brand is not only exhilarating – it’s the beginning of a new era.” 

Sri Lanka’s tourism body should focus on consistency in branding

Writing on the subject of tourism branding in Sri Lanka’s business publication The Daily FT, Hilmy Cader, the founder and CEO of boutique home-grown international management advisory MTI Consulting, says that developing a tourism strategy for a country is far more important than focusing on just a tag-line – which should in itself be a by-product of strategy.

Citing well-known tourism tag-lines such as New Zealand 100% Pure, Malaysia Truly Asia, and Incredible India, Cader notes that the purpose of a tag-line is to communicate the value proposition of an offering in encapsulated form, and this requires creativity, intensity, and, as a key factor, consistency – which is especially important when it comes to countries with little in the way of campaign budgeting.

Sri Lanka, however, in just the past decade alone has wheeled out such hooks as ‘The Wonder of Asia’, ‘A Land Like No Other’, ‘A Small Miracle’, and ‘Small Island – Big Trip’ – all with extremely small or insignificant campaign funding.

Regardless, the experienced consultant says, the tag-line should be a product of a well-developed strategy, which should first address a series of fundamental questions, including, among others, which type of traveller is Sri Lanka aiming to attract and satisfy, why they would select Sri Lanka over competing markets, and how to continuously fine-tune the value-proposition to remain relevant in the market?

“So, forget the tag-line (for the moment), look at the bigger picture first – do you see it?” Cader writes in conclusion.

Earlier this month, travel platform Lonely Planet ranked Sri Lanka as world’s #1 travel destination for the year 2019.