Looking back on the highs and lows of 2019 in Sri Lanka
Looking back on 2019, it was definitely a year full of highs and lows for Sri Lanka. We started off riding an upward swell with an amazing first quarter from January to mid-April. Lonely Planet ranked Sri Lanka as the #1 destination to visit in 2019. As we were starting to see the results of this trend suddenly, tragedy struck.
The initial after-effects left our team feeling hesitant to travel even for work. It was a time where the term “cancellation” became the norm, seeing all our efforts put into securing bookings come crashing down and washing away was truly heartbreaking. At the same time, it was equally disheartening to see our chauffeurs, guides, and various other partners struggling to keep their families afloat during these trying times.
As we were hard-pressed and coming to terms with our situation, we started receiving tremendous support and reassurance from “YOU” ̶ our business partners, Khiri core-office in Bangkok, and lovely colleagues from other Khiri countries. In addition to this, a personal visit from our Founder, Mr. Willem Niemeijer, was instrumental in re-igniting the spark in all of us. From that point onwards, we all started working under the motto that “Tough times don’t last but tough teams do!” We owe a big THANK YOU to all of you who have been a source of inspiration and strength for our team.
From mid-year, we started gearing up for better times ahead. Our team refocused on our first love – “Product Development.” We set off traveling around the country to fine-tune our existing signature experiences as well as developed other new activities. Some of the new excursions sprung out organically as a result of visiting various resorts in Yala National Park. We had a lovely dinner with a family in Galle followed by an upbeat session of song and dance with the Sri Lankan Kaffirs, who are the last remaining descendants of Southern African slaves. All of these excursions will be featured in our itineraries for the coming year.
We also managed to find some much-needed time to update our sustainability action plans and begin the process of becoming a Travelife partner. The certification audit is now on track and have scheduled an inspection in early January 2020. Although sustainability is at the heart and soul of our operations, starting from our office layout to all our products and experiences: we really didn’t have all the proper documentation squared away. Now, we have a system to accurately monitor our social and environmental footprint. On the practical side of things, we have implemented a refillable-bottle policy instead of single-use plastics for most of our tours in 2019. The results have been positive, paving the way for more sustainable initiatives to take place in 2020.
We continue to source most of our clients’ welcome-gifts locally from Thimble and Rice & Carry. Thimble is a workshop that empowers women from the fishing communities around Negombo. With each stitch and brushstroke, they showcase local Sri Lankan culture through their handicrafts. Rice & Carry is a similar workshop that engages with women from the rural villages on the East coast who produce lovely bags, pouches, and backpacks out of recycled material. It has also been inspiring to see a lot of our business partners include more eco-friendly activities like tree planting programs and beach clean-ups in their itineraries. We are thrilled that our guests jump at the chance to offset their carbon footprint and giving back to the environment while enjoying the natural beauty of Sri Lanka.
The last quarter of 2019 has started picking up with another wave of optimism. Things are looking better: especially as our sales numbers consistently increase, we look forward to next year. With some great new products up our sleeves and the continuous support from all our partners, we see 2020 as the year where we will rise up like a Phoenix from the ashes. As they say, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!” From everyone at Khiri Travel Sri Lanka, here’s to a bigger and better 2020, cheers!