Sadly we all heard about the tragic events that happened in Sri Lanka earlier this year, and as a result of these incidents, the country has suffered from a dramatic drop in tourism.
In a bid to help more tourists return, Beyond Travel joined forces with an epic film crew and ventured to this beautiful land to capture what’s really happening behind the scenes.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Lavilles, the Owner of Beyond Travel to find out more.
Michael is very passionate about supporting Sri Lanka through the tourism industry. He has committed to a number of initiatives which will be launched shortly to actively involve his staff, customers and the greater Australian community.
We need to bring this beautiful destination back to its 2018 glory, where Australian visitors ranked it their fifth favourite destination worldwide.
Hi Michael, it sounds like you have been on quite the fact-finding mission. What was the primary purpose of your investigations?
We went with a film crew to tell the stories of the effect of the events at Easter this year. That is to the people in the tourism industry and the cascade of sectors associated with tourism.
Sri Lanka had been a top-rated destination for tourism in the past few years and infrastructure has been built to cater for the boom like hotels, tour places, tour guides, buses, cars and so on. Our Australian clients have been raving about their travel experience and the people like the tour guides.
In May, I read an article from the Australian Financial Review that incoming tourists had dropped by 80%. I associated this to the people whom our clients rave about, in how they must be affected along with their families.
On the same day, I sent an email to our local partner who is offering financial relief to the local people. If we can do it enough to cover at least three months’ worth of income, I believe it is just a matter of a few months before tourists will return.
So our mission was to find out more about the effects to people and their families, capture them in film, and figure out what we can do to help.
Please tell us about your initiatives to help support the country’s tourism industry.
Our first initiative is to stimulate the outbound tourism from Australia to Sri Lanka as this is what they need – creating jobs and as well as creating economies.
I went there along with our GM Sales and Marketing (Bryce) and Project Lead (Shelley) and film crew to see the place for myself and meet the people.
I can tell you our experience was terrific, and with confidence, it is a win-win for the Australian tourist and Sri Lanka when we visit the country.
In collaboration with our local partners, we are running a national campaign to stimulate tourism with Beyond Travel. By dropping profits in the next three months we can offer great incentives to the travellers and the retail travel sector.
The second initiative is to offer financial relief to families, which will run from this month until the end of November. We started with 20 families in mind at the start, but this quickly jumped to 30 thanks to PayPal offering their support.
We plan to open up the relief initiative to the travel industry, local partners and organisations so we can offer relief to more families.
During our visit we met affected people including: tour guides, flower garland makers, orchid farmers, egg farmers, craft makers and coconut vendors.
The downturn in incoming tourism has had a devastating effect on these people and their families.
Most of the beautiful hotels that we went to see have a low number of guests, so local employment is greatly affected.
These incidents can happen anytime, anywhere – why do you think people have stopped travelling to Sri Lanka?
It is understandable that fear has been created around the destination and Sri Lanka competes with other places so travellers will always have a choice where they want to go for their holiday.
However, Sri Lanka is still the same place with great people, diversity, fantastic food, nature and ancient culture – all reasons why they were the number one destination.
Did your findings back up your thoughts on the matter, or were you shocked with what you discovered?
Yes, I was taken more by the effect; like the hotels, we visited that were quiet (they employ and train local people from villages and generate economies for towns and support the building of schools and civic buildings).
The craft makers and vendors also got me as there were only a few tourists to buy their crafts, so their stalls were very quiet.
These people are amazingly authentic, friendly and hospitable, and they have families to support, they love tourists.
I visited Sri Lanka back in 2017 & crossed paths with many kind, passionate & hardworking locals. Can you please tell us how the impact of April’s incident has affected these individuals & their families?
We visited a hotel that trains local people (Tamils), who were affected by the civil war, so they get jobs in the hotel. I met a local family that cooks curry in an old hut and serve authentic Sri Lankan food. I met the family of our tour guide at their home with is small daughters welcoming us with their homemade cakes,
Yes, I can say that they are amazing people and they have all been affected by the sudden drop in tourism with little income to support their families.
They have built small enterprises and even bought cars; they need tourists to experience what they offer.
What is the biggest thing we can do to help?
The most significant thing we can do is consider visiting Sri Lanka again.
Secondly, to give the local people the chance to get back on their feet. This will only be for a short period as I believe the tourists will return as Sri Lanka is a great destination.
What are your favourite five things about this culturally immersive destination?
- The ancientness of it (going back a few thousand years) which they are still benefiting from today.
- The diversity – one day you’ll be riding in the back of a cart, next a safari with wild elephants, then to the cloudy mountains with rows and rows of tea plantations right down to the fishing villages.
- The food is unique, and they even have curries for breakfast, the hoppers are a must.
- People are from diverse backgrounds. Hindu temples, Catholic churches, statues, Buddhist temples and Muslim turrets all in one town.
- The farmers like meeting the village chief in their huts above the tree to ward off wild elephants at night – by using loud voices, firecrackers and flute songs to keep them up at night.
Which of your Sri Lanka trips would you recommend for a first-time explorer to the area?
Go west as they have authentic places, and the boutique hotels are exceptional. Must experience the elephant safari and taste the village food by hand and on leaves.
We would love to watch the film, where & when can we see it?
It will be out in two weeks (hopefully sooner!)
Thank you for all the work you are doing in support of the people, the wildlife, the culture, the economy and the reputation of Sri Lanka; the gem of the Indian Ocean.
Find out more about booking your clients to Sri Lanka with Beyond.
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