Sri Lanka yet to pursue nation branding | Daily News

Sri Lanka yet to pursue nation branding

Panelists at the event.
Panelists at the event.

The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) recently in a panel discussion noted that the country had yet to pursue a common branding initiative that would work across a diverse array of use cases.

They accused historical initiatives of lacking a common vision and consequently common message to be taken internationally. They noted that nation branding should be a bi-partisan venture so as to help create continuity so that the branding efforts can build momentum for periods over a decade. These views were expressed on March 22 at the Kingsbury Hotel at SLIM’s ‘Future Read Sri Lanka’ event. The event aimed to bring together stakeholders to help position Sri Lanka to travel, invest, and live. There was consensus that a fragmented approach to nation branding would deliver little value for all stakeholders.

Keynote Speaker Dileep Mudadeniya noted that most countries fail in creating nation branding that stood the test of time. His research indicated that most countries abandoned branding endeavours even before a full year period had passed. Mudadeniya added that as governments tend to have a political appointee deciding branding strategy that there would be a lack of continuity in the instance the government changed. He said that Sri Lanka has wasted many resources by not pushing through on one strategy. Sri Lanka ranks below its HDI indicators on major brand metrics especially given its suitability for tourism. Sri Lanka ranks 48th according to Bloom Consulting, 68th according to Brand Finance, and 58th according to Future Brands.

Mudandeniya noted that even to this day Sri Lanka was struggling to shrug off imagery of the civil conflict. Mudandeniya noted that if the country failed to brand itself it would let other people build up perceptions to their liking about the country. He said, “Tell your own story or someone else will say it for you.”

Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando noted that her team had to seek novel methods of getting exposure given the dearth of foreign exchange in the financial system. She noted that nation branding was an initiative that was bigger than just the tourism industry and needed broad stakeholder consensus. Fernando has been able to bring down major film studios and Warner Brothers through HBO is expected to start a project in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Tourism will work with USAID to create sustainability guidelines to further promote tourism. Fernando accused the broader public of having the famed negative Sri Lankan mindset and that this was not the way to develop the country.

Export Development Board Chairman Suresh De Mel noted that even ongoing export operations were facing issues as value-added products were being widely undercut by bulk exporters from within the country. De Mel noted that Coconut Water (Thambili) in the form of value-added processed goods from Sri Lanka were being undercut by cheap bulk exports of the product as a commodity. He noted that the bulk exports were cheaper than the local (in Sri Lanka) prices showcasing the peculiarities brought about by the exchange controls. SLASSCOM Chairperson Sandra De Zoysa called for the swift establishment and promotion of Digital Nomad Visa in the country.

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