The 2017 Budget, proposes to undertake a strong, structured and focused global marketing campaign with the allocation of Rs. 1,000 Million to boost exports, tourism and foreign direct investment as well as to Brand “Sri Lanka”.
In the Commercial Management perspective, this is a very encouraging proposal paying attention to run a marketing campaign with the intention of promoting exports such as tea, cinnamon and apparel, tourism and foreign direct investment.
However, will the global marketing campaign really be effective to brand “Sri Lanka”, a nation which has been widely exposed on global media associated with war and human right issues, over the last three decades?
According to the world renowned nation branding expert, Simon Anholt, the nation brand is the people’s perceptions of a country where marketing communication campaign such as advertising and PR have ever succeeded or could ever succeed, in changing the global perceptions of the country as it is entrenched in the minds of the global population.
In addition, previous studies reveal that there has been no noticeable correlation between the expenditure on nation branding campaigns and the changes in the national image.
Nevertheless, we as patriotic Sri Lankans, want to see our country flourishing with a strong reputation and robust identity in the fast-changing global economy.
So, what could be done?
Simon Anholt points out that the National reputation can only be earned by making real changes in exports, tourism, investment and immigration, culture, governance as well as people and showing to the world, the revolutionary changes which are currently taking place in the country, so that the world can witness in real time steps which would help shaping the nation’s global reputation.
Although, the budget proposes several ambitious initiatives and reforms, only selected ones are highlighted to assess the potential impact on the nation’s reputation.
The Budget proposes to establish an eco-tourism triangle connecting Ella, Bandarawela and Haputale to be supported with a domestic airport in the Badulla district or linking Badulla district to the Southern expressway.
Meanwhile, it was also proposed to grant customs duty waivers on Surf Boats, Quad Bikes, Leisure Boats, and Jet Skis to harness the potential on water sports and to refund VAT paid by foreigners on purchasing goods in the island.
These human-built and natural environments would raise the interest of tourists leading to an improved image of the brand “Sri Lanka”.
Strict ban on exporting Refuse Tea was expected whilst Sri Lanka Tea Board extending guarantees to tea exporters for obtaining USD loans for brand promotion, will not only strengthen “Ceylon Tea” brand but also enrich the image of its mother brand “Sri Lanka”.
Furthermore, establishing an EXIM Bank and a “Unique Craft Marketing Center” as well as organizing annual “Colombo Fair” would improve the image of Sri Lankan products in the global sphere.
Investment and Immigration
Indeed, Sri Lanka could establish its modern and vibrant appeal with the implementation of the Megapolis plan, expressways connecting the country whereas the budget envisages for a modernized transport systems including Light Rail Transit (LRT), replacement of three wheelers with electric cars as well as the introduction of pre-paid and cashless cards for road and rail transportation.
Moreover, other endeavours including five-year multiple entry visas to foreign investors and to international students who wish to study in the island have also been suggested to exempt taxes of major international organizations who are willing to relocate their headquarters to Sri Lanka, which would generate a positive appeal for living, working or studying in the country.
It was also recommended to implement judicial and legal reforms to establish the country to be the destination for better quality living and investment. Besides, the government also shows its commitment towards cleaner and sustainable environmental practices by encouraging private sector participation in solid waste management, organic fertilizer production and the use of green energy sources.
The Sri Lankan culture is very unique and rich with many customs and rituals which is often reflected by the use of art, architecture, sculptures and colourful festivals.
Accordingly, Sri Lanka will host the official Vesak festival of the United Nations in May 2017 whereas it was also proposed to organize cultural shows to be held every day at different tourist sites, which will portray the rich Sri Lankan culture to the world.
• Establish a Nation’s Brand Steering Committee with the objective of building and managing the nation’s brand.
• Conduct a “Nation Brand Forum”- bringing together key stakeholders to discuss on the way forward.
• Establish a Vision for the nation-brand
• Coordinate nation-branding activities among relevant stakeholders, in line with the brand’s vision.
• Initiate a brand policy to facilitate and monitor its future developments.
The Budget 2017 has laid emphasis on the Nation Branding which is a very encouraging step indicating that the country is moving in the right direction. The Government has to move forward with real transformations which will position Sri Lanka in the global map.