Foreign Affairs

We Can’t Clap Our Way To The Finish Line

By Sarath De Alwis &#8211

Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

An exuberant media, print and electronic, has acclaimed a fleeting and fragile observation by Master Card , that Colombo is the fastest growing tourist city in the globe as a monumental achievement.

One particular isolated line in a 46 web page document- Tracking International Growth: 2009 -2015 became a retrospective endorsement of Gota’s second war on the urban poor of Colombo.

It is a clear reminder that the media in this nation in spite of their avowed assertion of independence was an acquiescent partner of the Rajapaksa siblings in manufacturing well-known consent of post war triumphalism, the myth of the Asian miracle and the Indian Ocean hub of 21st Century worldwide commerce.

The once powerful and now plaintive and powerless Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa wasted no time in appropriating the credit for this imaginary accomplishment.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa FacebookIn his face book web page, the former defence secretary and the czar of the UDA trumpeted that he was ‘truly delighted’ to see Colombo getting recognized as the fastest expanding city for tourism in the Global Index of Mater Card whose vision statement is ‘A planet beyond Money ‘.

The former strongman has promised to share his thoughts on Urban Development undertaken by the prior government. In a Television interview, he warned the new government not to squander the developmental success in Colombo by neglecting to preserve the parks, jogging tracks and shopping arcades. The purpose of this report is to dissuade not only the former defense secretary, but also the present heads of Sri Lanka tourism and Sri Lankan airlines from misreading the conclusions and misconstruing the reasoning of the report.

The full report “ Master Card 2015 International Location Cities Index” can be accessed here.

Does the survey pronounce Colombo as an exceptionally desirable location? It does not.

What it. in fact observes, is analytically correct and revealingly bland. It qualifies its assertion that Colombo is the quickest expanding with a CAGR 0f 20.1 percent with the following clarification.

“Colombo in Sri Lanka is the quickest increasing with a CAGR of 21.1 percent, albeit coming off a extremely low base, with just more than a single million guests in 2005. Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of China is the second fastest growing, with a CAGR of 20.7 percent. It is also expanding from a low base, with about 1.five million visitors in 2015. [Emphasis mine]

Thus what tends to make Colombo exceptional is the base year 2009 – the year when the Lions beat the Tigers. The compound annual development rate is calculated from 2009.

The goal of the Global City index is not to deliver worth judgments on city administration. The report as explained in its introduction charts how 132 of the most crucial cities in the globe are connected via air travel – how a lot of international visitors arrive at each of these cities from other cities and how considerably these visitors commit for the duration of their pay a visit to?

The report does not evaluate the length of the jogging tracks or the square footage of shopping space that Colombo has added considering that 2009. The report is unequivocal in its prognosis of Colombo. “Colombo in Sri Lanka is the fastest expanding destination city amongst the 132 cities covered by the index at 21.1 % CAGR among 2009 and 2015. Tourism there is clearly recovering strongly after the ending of the civil war.”

In an report captioned 21st Century Silk Route in Skies: No stop in Serendib, published in the Everyday FT of 2nd February 2015, this writer urged the new interim government to seriously take into account closing its loss generating routes to Europe or even contemplate shutting down the airline completely. It also stated that the government has no enterprise to be in the Airline enterprise.

Sri Lankan Airlines is not a going concern. Its losses on the far eastern sectors are marginally less than its losses on the European routes. Its losses on its Middle Eastern routes are slightly higher than its losses on its operations to the Indian subcontinent. If indeed Colombo has recorded a 21.1 percent improve in guests, how did they arrive in Colombo? Has Sri Lankan airlines registered a corresponding increase in its cabin factor on any of its routes to tourist producing points?

Quickest Expanding Destinations


The Master Card report carries the chart of the quickest increasing Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitor [2009- 2015CAGR]. Colombo heads the list and its lead over Osaka and Tokyo explains the distinction Colombo is entitled to and the distinction it ought to not overlook.


It then provides a additional clarification in the subsequent chart.- The quickest Developing Location Cities inside the prime 20. The report notes that ‘A really diverse picture emerges in this comparison. Four out of five in this chart are from Asia although Istanbul is from central Europe.

These according to the report are the destination cities that have large enough numbers of international visitors to put them in the top 20 of the globe. Then comes the coup de grâce: As for the Asian cities, their strong growth in visitors has come from the huge outbound travel from China.

This report is crucial reading for those entrusted with the operating of the national carrier and the Tourism improvement authority by a hands on Prime Minister who does not hesitate to locate the proper person for the job even if it indicates importing the requisite talent.

In the earlier report published on 2nd February in the Every day Ft this writer said “Airlines right now are a global company exactly where connectivity is pivotal to their achievement. The sorry truth is that Sri Lanka in the 21st century cannot stay on the aviation silk route if it persists with its obsession of a national airline engaged in international air transport.”
It is now getting whispered that the octogenarian repository of financial wisdom in the policy preparing establishment has suggested that the flag carrier withdraws from Europe but retain the same frequencies to the mother nation whose Westminster democracy we want to restore in location of the Gaulist program. Be that as it could, the Master Card report reiterates the conventional wisdom in aviation economics.

“A prerequisite of any location city that aspires to attract much more international guests is to increase the capacity of airports and frequency of flight connections among the airport and the rest of the globe.

Sri Lankan airlines connects to four of them save Istanbul. Can our national carrier , Sri Lankan Airlines agree with the Master card report and claim a discernible improvement of its uplift from these leading hubs?

1 noteworthy feature is that Dubai has outpaced Singapore as a worldwide hub.

The report explains “London led the planet in 2009, and by 2015 its connectivity score increased by 4.2 points. Paris is second, but its connectivity score has dropped by 1.3 points considering that 2009. Subsequent is Dubai, escalating its score by an impressive 20.four points, and surpassing Frankfurt amongst 2009 and 2015. Frankfurt slipped to fourth, with its score generally unchanged. Rounding out the best five, Istanbul increased its score by 26. points, exceeding the growth rate of Dubai. Not surprisingly, Dubai and Istanbul are dynamic destination cities moving swiftly up the ranks.

In February this writer mentioned in the columns of the Day-to-day FT

“Today, Europe regards the Persian Gulf the most easterly hub. For Asia the Gulf is the most westerly hub. In this contemporary cartography of the 21st Century, Sri Lanka is not in the silk route in the skies. No one has noticed how far old Serendib has drifted away from the silk route that linked Europe with Cathay by way of the straits of Hormuz and the straits of Malacca.
 Neither the Department of Civil Aviation nor the National Carrier have recognised the ‘complex and uneven geographies of mobility’ structured by the airline industry and its profit and efficiency driven selection of routes.”

So a lot for prophets sans honour in their own village.

The report next deals with the far more complex concern of visitor expenditure. This writer gave up a profession in journalism to join the leisure industry in 1974. For the last four and a half decades in destination promotion and airline marketing this writer has heard a lot of advocates of upmarket tourism who want to bring higher spending vacationers and market MICE tourism – meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

This writer as soon as earned the wrath of one of these pundits who had the habit of starting his homilies with the words “Please appropriate me if I am wrong.” To my own amazement I heard myself telling him “No boss I can not do that. It is a full time job! ”

The report has a chart which is offered below. It indicates the Worldwide Destinations by overnight visitor arrival expenditure per city resident in 2015. This gauges the overall performance of a destination city by taking to account the size of the city’s resident population and compares it with the quantity of international overnight guests that it attracts per city resident. Cities such as Dubai, Singapore and even Amsterdam are at an benefit in this calibration. Colombo is not in the top 20 but could measure up to the test if we ever get in to the league.


Even though the report has excited the former secretary of Defense and Urban development, Colombo is nowhere near the top ten Location cities in Asia/Pacific. The leading ten destinations in its order are Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai, Mumbai and Osaka.

“Bangkok which was ranked second in the world is the top location in Asia/Pacific. , displacing Melbourne. In terms of cross-border spending, Seoul leads in Asia/Pacific with an anticipated US$ 15.2 billion, followed by Singapore at US$ 14.7 billion, Bangkok at US$ 12.4 billion, Kuala Lumpur at US$ 12. billion, and Taipei at US$ 9.3 billion.”

These figures should tell us exactly where we are in the company of tourism and the more daunting activity of aviation.

The report also includes some fascinating insights in to the developments in aviation sector as regards significant leisure destinations – Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The report graphically shows how each and every city has tended to create its feeder networks.




The charts clearly demonstrate that the Asian location cities have their feeder reservoirs inside Asia and Australasia. Europe is incidental to their achievement.

SDA3Our aviation market and the tourism sector does not wish to confront the truth. Each industries survive on self-deception and self-delusion. Our stewardesses serve free Moët &amp Chandon while our property maids earn the dollars that spend for them.

The government has no business to stay in the Air Line Business. Sri Lanka can not afford a flag carrier. It would be less expensive for us to let someone else to paint our flag on their aircraft and pay us a token royalty. The information are out there with IATA itself. The Airlines, that is to say the lucky ones could at greatest make significantly less than $ six per passenger. On about $ 750 billion in income, that functions out to a possible net profit of just $ 18 billion. It need to operate out to be two.4% profit margin. That is the truth. As the German playwright Wolfgang Borchert says in his theatre of the ruins ‘Outsider’ “Truth is like the town whore. Everybody knows her, but nonetheless, it&#8217s embarrassing to meet her on the street”.

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