Colombo: Sri Lanka is using the cricket World Cup to lure holidaymakers to this tropical island that has seen a marked drop in foreign visitors following an escalation of violence, officials said on 26 April.
Sri Lanka’s tourism authorities are using 30 students at Caribbean venues to hold placards, traditional masks and balloons to catch the attention of television cameras, the officials said.
“The placards carry various slogans all centered around our promotional theme ‘Sri Lanka, a land like no other´,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Renton de Alwis told AFP.
The games are heavily sponsored and only products and services accredited to the organisers are allowed to be displayed at match venues. However Sri Lankan authorities are using various tactics in a bid to get round the rules.
For instance, a placard showing Lasith Malinga’s bleached-blond hairdo with the legend “a lad like no other” is being placed next to Sri Lankan masks, officials said.
The placard can be read as a spectator slogan as well as being a play on the country’s theme of “a land like no other”.
“The exposure we have had during the World Cup is simply priceless for the country’s image. The team’s success has generated enormous awareness about the country. It’s a shot in the arm for us,” de Alwis said.
Sri Lanka’s image as a tourist destination has taken a beating since fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels surged in December 2005.
In the three months to March this year, some 134,600 foreign tourists visited the island, a 15.6% drop over the same period in 2006, according to official figures.
March was the worst, with authorities reporting just 35,031 visitors, a 36% drop over the same month a year earlier.
“Hopefully, our cheer squads and creative visual material will attract more cricket fans to Sri Lanka when England tours the island in October,” de Alwis said.
Sri Lanka Tourism has rolled out a $4.6-million campaign to promote Sri Lanka in India, Europe and China this year.