Post FOT 2019, Sri Lanka confident of facing challenges

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts concluded its globally recognized third edition of the Future of Tourism Summit (FOT 2019). This timely revival of the bi-annual conference was conducted under the highly pertinent theme ‘Challenges and Growth in Crisis’, in the aim of aiding unanimous efforts made to regain Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. Thus, the said theme for this year’s summit garnered the interest of eminent destination gurus from the world over, including CNN’s leading business correspondent Richard Quest.

Endorsed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this year’s forum drew on the insights of top global experts who dispensed  their first-hand experience in driving sustainable economic growth in the most challenging times.

As hospitality brands around the world deal with the threat of natural disasters, terror attacks, political instability, outbreaks of diseases and other factors that can have a detrimental effect on tourism growth and stability, FOT 2019 and its theme this year was regarded exceptionally fitting in the light of the collective global attempts made to equip brands and destination marketers with the know-how, strategies and protocols that they need to manage different crises and overcome them.

“According to the UNWTO, the relatively strong global economy, and the growing middle class in emerging economies have boosted tourism numbers to 1.4B in 2018; a 5% growth from the previous year,” stated Krishan Balendra, Chairman John Keells Holdings. “Through this conference, we have set the stage for a constructive discourse with renowned destination marketers who provided strategic insights highlighting destination recovery, breakthrough tourism campaigns and creative initiatives to tourism which are timely and vital for the industry’s future. Their expertise expands across many areas both geographical and intellectual and I am confident that we will collectively be able to address how we can tackle the challenges we are currently facing and simultaneously keep up with the evolving industry landscape,”

The Guest of Honour for this year’s summit, Richard Quest, CNN’s international correspondent, business editor and host of Quest Means Business, explored the topic ‘Looking beyond the crisis’ discussing the challenges he has witnessed in the context of tourism destinations and how the future dimensions in tourism are expected to change the landscape of tourism. This was followed by a live oon-stage discussion with the Hon.Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Other speakers at the summit included Anita Mendiratta, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the UNWTO, who kicked-off the summit with her keynote address on the topic ‘Emerging Stronger through Crisis’. Mendiratta is known to have mastered the art of breaking through conflict and help governments and businesses identify the human connection essential to establishing much-needed skillsets to overcome crisis related obstacles. Her experience and contribution in managing crisis response and recovery after social unrest, terror attacks and natural disasters. uniquely qualifies her to speak on this forum. While Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and CEO of Taj Hotels, TATA Group, shared his own experiences and initiatives through his topic ‘Recovering from a crisis and rebuilding the brand,’.

Dileep Mudadeniya, Vice President John Keells Holdings, Head of Brand Marketing Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts and CEO Cinnamon Life Mall, was then joined by both Puneet Chhatwal and Anita Mendiratta with Kishu Gomes, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, for a panel discussion on ‘Building a recovery marketing plan for all sectors’ moderated by Damian Cook, CEO of E-Tourism Frontiers, who also spoke at the event on ‘Priority actions, partners and channels when connecting with resilient markets.’  He spoke about how the concept of crisis management has changed radically in today’s new media landscape, with content and information largely controlled by individuals rather than Governments and Corporations. He further discussed the lessons that have been learned from recent tourism related incidents from around the globe revealing that recovery is less about self-contained action plans and more about building trust and connections with well informed, resilient markets.

The summit also featured Ashish Hemrajani, Founder and CEO of Book My Show, who spoke on the ‘Role of Entertainment in Destination Rebuilding’, enlightening the audience on how the largest entertainment company in India manages an entertainment portfolio from around the world. Speaking on ‘Use of Design Thinking for Creative Solutions in Marketing’, Rene Massati, Partner at TrendOne GmBh, delved into the power of design thinking as a tool to understand customer needs through applying approaches of creativity, experimentation and concept development to improve the success of businesses.

Vesta Ratkeviciute, Senior Regional Communications & Marketing Consultant at Southeast Asia Euromonitor International, spoke on ‘Global Consumer Trends; Opportunities for the Travel Industry’, presenting the most demanded statistics for 2019, its forecasting and future travel trends for Sri Lanka. Vidhi Godiawala, Business Development Manager, Central & South Asia, STR  elaborated on the topic ‘Post recovery of the Accommodation Sector – Lessons from other Destinations’ discussing the performance of hotels in post-recovery destinations and their impact on occupancies, average daily rates, REVPAR, etc. through a comparative analysis of similar Asian destinations.

Michael Yam, CEO and Managing Director of Impetus Alliance, spoke on ‘The breakthrough in Investment tourism’, highlighting on investment in the context of determining return on investment in tourism, the risks associated with it, and the potential for tourism investment, including the opportunities of exploiting the low-hanging fruit and the future of investment in hospitality. Derek Jones, CEO of DER Touristik UK, addressed the issue of building destination confidence among tour operators. Jones discussed case studies and lessons learned from effective recovery plans implemented by destinations as well as Sri Lanka’s current appeal for travelers from the United Kingdom.

An Investor Forum was conducted by a panel consisting of Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor Hotel Group, Malik Fernando, Managing Director of Resplendent Ceylon, Krishan Balendra, Chairman of John Keells Holdings, Vickum Nawagamuwage, Founder and CEO of Santani Resort and Spa, and Shiromal Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing Hotels, moderated by Murtaza Jafferjee, CEO of JB Securities. FOT 2019 drew to a close with a panel discussion between Sarah Mathews (Head of Destination Marketing APAC, Trip Advisor), befored being joined by Vidhi Godiawala, Derek Jones and Vesta Ratkevicuite for a Q & A session moderated by Cook himself.

Cinnamon Future of Tourism Summit Endorsed  by United Nations World Tourism Organisation, International Media Partner – CNN Travel, In Association with Mercedes Benz Sprinter by Dimo, Powered by Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Destination Partner – So Sri Lanka, Electronic Media Partner – YES101 & Legends96.6, Airline Partner – SriLankan Airlines, Mobile Partner – Mobitel, Digital Partner – Xiteb, Strategic Partner – Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka,  Luxury Transport Partner – Transcend Drive, Print Media – Sunday Times ,Daily Mirror, Daily FT.

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