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Sri Lanka Government offended by Small Miracles

by Tom Armstrong

In a hilarious (if you don’t work in the travel industry that is!) and spectacular u-turn the Government of Sri Lanka has intervened and cancelled the new marketing campaign devised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board. Sri Lanka recently re-branded itself from ‘A Land Like No Other’, to ‘Sri Lanka, Small Miracle’, in a mass-budget and multi-pronged campaign designed to boost tourism in the country following the end of the three decade old civil war. We reported the move in this blog and said, like most people who we spoke to, that we actually thought it was pretty good and appropriate.

It’s a small miracle in itself that they didn’t think to intervene sooner, seeing as half the government was probably at the lavish launch party held in Colombo in June 2009. At the launch, Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau explained the thinking behind the slogan: ‘Sri Lanka Small Miracle denotes the mysteries of Sri Lanka and how it holds so many different features in such a small geographical area. The positioning strategy was arrived at based on the key aspects of the destination – Diversity, Compactness, Authenticity and an Island which differentiate the destination from other competitors. Sri Lanka truly combines rich and diverse treasures so amazingly concentrated to provide the most pleasant diverse and authentic holiday experience no other Asian destination could so conveniently offer’.

As tour operators we are constantly extolling the virtues of Sri Lanka in relation to its relatively small size. However, it seems that this is some kind of slight on the nation for the newly installed Tourism Minister, who said in an interview with the Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) that the new slogan was being withdrawn with immediate effect. “We are a nation that has proved to the entire world wonders starting from our ancient irrigation skills that could not be matched with any other country. We possess a rich ancient history and the Mahawamsa bears testimony to our great past. So why do we want to brand our country as a small miracle when we have performed big miracles? Leave alone the past and take the recent war victory. Isn’t that a huge miracle? At a time when we were pressurized by many of the super power nations to bring the military operations against the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization to a halt, we were still able to crush the LTTE and bring peace to the country after nearly three decades of ruthless war. In such a backdrop why should we tag our country to be a place of small miracle?”

In a way, this ridiculous story says more about why you should go to Sri Lanka than any slogan possibly could. It has been poorly promoted and represented for so long now that it’s image as a destination is not as high profile as it should be. Don’t let the government fool you – there be small miracles there, and many of them……

It strikes me that only politicians could have an issue with a miracle being small (is there a historical precedent of people complaining about the size of miracles?). In the meantime, Sri Lanka now has no marketing slogan or strategy at just the time it needs it most. I await the launch of the new slogan with some interest, as this guy obviously has some big ideas!

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