HVS Key Takeaways: Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) Sri Lanka 2017
By Hemangi Bhandari, Senior Associate - Consulting & Valuation at HVS New Delhi
The 2nd edition of the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) Sri Lanka, hosted by HVS, concluded on 8 February 2017. 170 delegates, representing hotel companies and operations, banks and financial institutions, consulting firms, ownership and development, as well as architecture and design, gathered in Colombo to provide insights into the dynamic Sri Lankan hospitality and tourism industry. In addition to deliberating the prevalent trends and current performance of the hotel sector, stakeholders emphasised the vast potential of the island as well as the key challenges that lay ahead.
A common theme through the conference was the immense potential of the island nation's tourism industry. Comparisons with other South Asian countries such as Thailand, the Maldives and Indonesia, which are predominately known for singular experiences, brought to the fore the diversity of tourism related products Sri Lanka offers. Distinctively gifted with dense rain forests, pristine beaches, nature parks and wildlife sanctuaries, as well as cities ingrained with local culture, cuisine and history, the country presents ample scope for development and investments to provide a variety of customised experiences for even the most discerning traveller.
To wholly leverage the innate and assorted tourism related products in Sri Lanka, delegates at the conference encouraged the creation of integrated tourism circuits within the country. In addition to the conventionally attractive locations such as Colombo and the South West coast, attendees at the conference discussed the investment opportunities presented by the other areas of the country; Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Mullaitivu, Batticoloa and Arugam Bay on the east coast, to name a few. With coordinated efforts by both the public and private sectors, it is feasible to form sustainable tourism circuits linking the various destinations in the country and ensure long-term benefits. However, this is contingent on continued infrastructure development and concentration on improvement of the air, road and rail connectivity as well as the power and telecom industries.
Beyond the broad tourism headlines, the delegates also highlighted the active interest in developing the hospitality sector, with domestic players expanding their footprint as well as the major international hotel brands entering the field. The increasing competition, coupled with focused infrastructure improvement and growth in tourist arrivals points towards exciting times ahead. However, the subsequent widening supply-demand gap of skilled manpower remains a concern. Shortage of skilled labour was repeatedly highlighted during the conference, stressing the need for considerable efforts from both the private and public sectors in order to foster a sufficiently proficient and substantial workforce.
The overriding factor discussed during the conference was the role played by the government as flag bearers. Consistency and transparency will be key to furthering the current government's agenda of positioning Sri Lanka as a financial, tourism and trading hub in the region. By way of marketing efforts, progressive policy reforms, improved foreign relations, as well as incentives for attracting foreign investments, the government should continue to work with the private sector for facilitating the comprehensive development of the tourism and hospitality industry.
The Emerald Island is progressively evolving as a key South Asian hospitality market, with the tourism sector presenting tremendous opportunity for regional and global investors, owners, operators, lenders, developers, and other industry players. The Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference Sri Lanka 2017 provided a meaningful platform for voicing these opportunities as well as the challenges faced by local and international hotel developers, owners and operators.