Focusses on FIT and MICE segment to gain maximum traction from India
Mano Gunasekera, Vice President Sales – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts; Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice President Operations, Colombo Hotels and Ilias Vamvakas, Area Vice President Operations, Sri Lanka Resorts Hotels welcome Indian travelers to Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts as well as Sri Lanka.
Performance in 2022 and expectations from India in 2023
Gunasekera expressed that Cinnamon looked at 2022 as a recovery from 2018-19, to have a base to work on that. The ARR’s in are said not to meet expectation, but in occupancies it started picking up latterly. In occupancy, they are coming to par with what was projected. In 2023, Cinnamon is quite bullish as the destination itself is projecting 1.5 million arrivals.
Munasinghe also added that “India has been the best feeder market for Sri Lanka over the years, 18% of arrivals came from India. Percentagewise in 2022, it was 17%, so there is not much difference”. He said that there is a new market emerged for Sri Lanka. In last three months, Russia organized charter flights coming into Sri Lanka, that has been the biggest producer.
He further claimed that for Indians it’s a very attractive market because of the proximity. “We had a bad patch, but since October we’ve been doing well. We have no shortages at all with enough supply of fuel and uninterrupted power, and no shortage of food and medicine. Our hotels anyway operated right throughout the crisis as well without any issue”, he assured.
Drawing light on the arrivals, Munasinghe mentioned that from mid-November, the numbers have been increasing. “In December, we almost saw 100,000 arrivals and in January – upto now, it has already crossed about 40,000 arrivals. So, our message to Indian market is you are a very important market to us and we are very well geared to welcome Indian travelers, for Sri Lanka, as well as for Cinnamon hotels and resorts”.
Plans to tap the targeted market segmets
Vamvakas mentioned that a couple of their partners said that Sri Lanka is a dream wedding destination. “What we foresee for 2023, is a hike towards the Indian market, which is coming back in larger numbers as we see confidence in India towards Sri Lanka is kind of flourishing. And yes, there are couple of negativities being radiated in the second quarter of 2023 and we all are here we all can reassure you that we are back to business, back to normalcy”, he further added.
Reiterating the fact, Gunasekera mentioned that “In 2023, let’s say 1.6 million, Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts is predicting for the period from April to March, 17-18% we’d actually expect of India with a huge focus on MICE.”
He added that there’s a very large MICE movement happening from one of the largest conglomerates in India, which is confirmed to Colombo, and some part of it to Cinnamon as well. There’s another coming in April through the Convention Bureau, and they are also inviting MICE agents to visit some of the prominent hotels in Colombo. “We have completed 4 weddings in 2022 from India and got almost 5 weddings confirmed for 2023. So, this is a huge market that we’re looking at. At the same time, if we look at the segments from India that has given business, FIT market will actually take precedence over MICE and Weddings. In 2018, we had 400,000 passengers from India and 2022 compared to that is 150,000. So you can actually see the dip, but at the same time in 2023, we are looking at 300,000 – 400,000+ travelers”, Gunasekera added.
Shift in Trends
Highlighting the shift in trends, Munasinghe added that nowadays, people decide to take a small holiday, specially from India, it is a three to five days that can vary maximum to one month leave prominently with two weeks booking window.
The other thing he highlighted is travelers are looking for experiences that are unique, that are not something the mass experiences and are uniquely curated for one’s requirement. Wellness and well-being mindfulness has become one of the leading trends in the hospitality industry. Identifying that, Cinnamon nature trails have been launched, which curates experiences for Cinnamon guests that caters an actual list, a nature trail agent, together curating experiences for guests that cannot be bought anywhere else except at Cinnamon hotels and resorts.
From a marketing perspective, Gunasekera mentioned Cinnamon is reaching out to different geographical source markets, identifying demographics to be targeted. The brand also looks to have content that features not just the physical aspects of a product or a property, but the experiential aspect of it.
The second aspect involves to becoming more interactive considering facts like ‘Is this influencer like-minded? Are they really interested in the experiential selling and the aspects that we have?
The third point revealed that Cinnamon is developing a large global sales organization with one office in Mumbai, one in Delhi, one in Bangalore. Beyond India they have offices in UK, France and Germany and are said to be expanding heavily into the GCC, and alongside looking at Asian countries.
The fourth aspect expressed that Cinnamon is focused on the traditional way of going through DMCS and travel agents, alongside tech advancements such as electronic distribution and policing opportunities more with B2B partners. Gunasekera expressed, “70 to 80% of our business comes from the destination management companies or the tour operators. Approximately a 15-18% from electronic distribution systems and about 10% comes on from own brand.