By Srilal Miththapala
There seems to be conflicting ideas as to how tourism should be promoted in the short term, in the post Covid -19 arena. A wide range of good initiatives have been proposed from various experts. We must not get carried away by emotion, and resort to ‘crystal ball gazing’, but make our plans, based on evidence and research.
What seems to be overlooked is the need to properly understand the post Covid-19 consumer behaviour, and only focus source markets. Finally, it is the consumer who will decide, whoever he may be.
The bottom line is that the ‘tourism world’ is not going to come back to normal for quite some time. Like everything else in our lives, consumers also will respond in a ‘new normal’ framework. Hence applying our traditional marketing strategies will not necessarily work in this uncertain environment. Many may accuse me of being a pessimist. But I would like to be understood as a pragmatist.
This essay will try to analyse the consumer mind set in the post CoVid-19 scenario, and then try to develop what marketing strategies would work to match these consumer needs.
The coronavirus crisis is having massive impacts on the tourism industry—many of which will reshape the industry’s future landscape. What actions should the stakeholders of this industry be taking today from a marketing and communications perspective? The truth is no one knows for sure. We are all in the dark. However, a business-as-usual approach is almost certainly wrong because there is nothing “usual” about this new life we’re all living and what’s happening to the tourism industry right now.
Just when the crisis seemed to be abating, we are now hit by a new variant of the virus that could have more disastrous impact. However, initial reports indicate that although it could be more infections than the Delta strain, the severity of the illness is probably less severe. It is still uncertain how different countries will respond to this new challenge.
2.0 Tourism Recovery
A recent global survey of UNWTO tourism experts on the recovery of travel shows a slight increase in confidence with 60 percent of consumers saying they expect to see a rebound in international tourism by 2022, versus just 50 percent in an earlier January 2021 survey.
In spite of this slight boost in confidence, nearly half of the respondents said that they did not expect international tourism to return to 2019 levels until 2024 or later. Similarly, 37 percent fewer respondents now believe 2023 could be the full recovery year.
In another study by Deloitte’s for Australia Tourism, there were three different scenarios presented.
Mild (best case) – international arrivals return to 2019 level by 2022.
Harsh (probable) – International tourist arrivals return to 2019 level by 2023.
Severe (worst case) – International arrivals return to 2019 level by 2025.
Boston Consulting Group predicts that travel won’t rebound to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024. “The tourism business is driven by the great intangible of consumer confidence. Regardless of therapeutics or vaccine availability, second or third waves, or the efficacy of safety protocols, the industry won’t fully recover until travellers and service providers do so psychologically.”
Hence most studies indicate that it will be 2023 by the time tourism recovers to pre Covid-19 levels.
(it must be noted that all such studies were done before the new Omicron outbreak and how that is going to impact consumer sentiment is still to be seen.)
To expect arrival numbers to reach the pre Covid-19 of about 100,000 – 150,000 per month in the next 12 months in Sri Lanka is a pipe dream. (We have just reached 100,000 arrivals for the year, only about 7% of pre Covid-19 days)
Hence, its high time that stakeholders accept that full recovery of tourism is going to be another 12-18 months away.
Tourism professionals should take cognisance of this, and plan for it. They should adjust their strategies, accordingly, to survive and make the best of the situation in the short term. This does not mean that there will be no tourism in 2021. Certainly, there will be, and what will follow in this essay, is to try and understand the consumer mind-set of these travellers, who would venture out in spite of certain uncertainties.
(TTRW: MADRID, 2 December 2021: One out of five destinations continue to have their borders completely closed as new surges of Covid-19 impact the restart of international tourism, while the WHO declaration identifying Omicron as a variant of concern will prompt additional restrictions.
The latest UNWTO research shows that still 98% of all destinations have some travel restrictions in place.)
3.0 Marketing in the short term after Covid-19
It is needless to say that under such circumstances where survival would be the focus, positioning and branding will have to take a back seat. But that does not mean to say that planning should stop. The time could be spent by all stakeholders to properly develop a positioning for the country and to ‘extract out’ what our real USP is. At a recent webinar I heard suggestions for a whole range of ‘unique propositions’ from cultural pageants, wildlife, nature, environment, food, wellness, ‘experience,’ etc. (there is a misnomer in considering ‘experience’ as a category. It is true that most tourists pay great emphasis on experience. But the ‘experience’ should cut across every category, be it wild life, wellness or food).
Obviously, Sri Lanka as a destination cannot be ‘everything for everyone’. Sometimes I think this blessing of a range of natural attractions, is Sri Lanka tourism’s problem. We have too much! Because we are blessed with a plethora of natural beauty and attractions, it’s easy to be carried away, and try to promote everything. It is my humble opinion that even launching the muchtalked- about Global Campaign is not advisable at this time. It is true that we have waited a long time for this. But is the market ready for it at this juncture?
The need of the hour is a short-term push marketing initiative, to ‘push’ the product and service attributes of Sri Lanka that will appeal to the prospective travellers in this uncertain market environment. The ‘pull’ marketing strategy, whereby we reach out to travellers with our brand attributes and unique propositions to create new customers, should follow thereafter, once some form of proper and consistent normalcy has arrived.
So the priority in the short term is the need for a strong communication programme to reach out to the smaller, specific segments of consumers who would consider traveling in next 12-18 months.
The ‘tourism cake’ has shrunk. And everyone (all tourism destinations) are trying to get a share.
So how does Sri Lanka reach out and get a bigger share of this cake?
4.0 The need for evidence-based decision-making.
SL tourism has never given too much prominence to research and evidence-based decision-making. I guess it is no surprise when the leadership of the whole country depends on soothsayers and astrologers and quack–brewed concoctions to rid the CoVid19 virus, while the sane voices of the professionals are given a deaf ear.
But then again tourism is such an interesting subject that everyone from streetside vendors to desk-based government bureaucrats and inexperienced and clueless ministers, are experts on the subject. Even tourism professionals tend to lean on their old experiences and emotions, rather than, on good research. The need for a private -public sector partnered tourism research unit has been talked about ad nauseam. (I myself have presented many proposals for such an initiative over the past years.)
The crying need of the hour (and of course in the long term as well) is to have good reliable feedback about the tourism market. Would it be difficult to interview the few tourists who are coming to Sri Lanka at the airport? Why did they decide to travel? Why did they choose Sri Lanka? Were they satisfied with their stay?, etc.
Such simple questions will give feedack which will be so useful to tweak our offering and to be more focused on our future promotional efforts. The importance should be on the return on every dollar spent on promotion in these difficult times, and not on the value of the promotion.
5.0 Short Term ‘Push’ Marketing –
In trying to develop such a communication plan, (I use the word plan and not strategy since it is short term oriented) the first focus should be on the tourism consumer. One way to segment the traveller would be based on mind-set.
5.1 The Potential
The possible consumer segments in the immediate post-Covid-19 era and their general characteristics could be as follows-
‘Devil may care’ traveller
The impetuous, young, adventurous risk takers. Not concerned about pandemic. Possibly with limited financial resources. (The conventional backpackers would also fall into this category but their monetary standing, post- CoVid-19 may be wanting)
‘Tread carefully’‘ traveller
Earns to travel. Will check all pros and cons on social media and other media channels and make careful decisions about travelling. Possibly young/middle aged, well-educated with adequate disposable income.
‘Wait and See’ traveller
Ultra-safety conscious and anxious about travelling. Possibly middle aged or Senior citizens, families with young children. Adequate financial resources.
It is evident that the segment who would travel under current prevailing circumstances would be predominately the ‘Devil-may-care’ Traveller, and to a lesser degree the ‘Tread carefully’ traveller segment. It will be quite a while before the ‘Wait and see’ traveller ventures out, and therefore there is no point in spending resources in engaging that category.
Hence it is not rocket science to conclude that a short term push marketing initiative must be specifically targeted at these two segments.
5.2 The Generic Consumer segments (Generational profiling)
The usually accepted generic consumer demographic segments are-
Silent Generation -Born 1925-1945; Current Ave. age 80’s- Small size
= Hard working
= Healthy, and most educated
= Wealthiest generation
Baby Boomers – Born 1945-1960; Current Ave. age 70’s-Medium size
= Larger families
= Non traditional
= Physically fit
= Leisure activities
Generation X –Born 1960-1980; Current Ave. age 50’s-Large size
= Enjoy creative input and resourceful
= Embrace technology and social media
= Strong emphasis on family time and work-life balance
= Hard working
= Financially well off
= Comfortable with technology
Generation Y (Millennials)-Born 1980-1990; Current Ave. age 30’s-Large size
= Internet and social media part of their lives
= Reasonably wealthy
Generation Z – Born 1990-present; Current Ave. age< 30’s- Medium size
= Risk takers
= Can be suspicious of larger corporations
= Not too brand loyal
= Short span of interest
=Fully ‘wired’ almost always
= Reliant on social media platforms
= Very concerned about environment, ethics and social wellbeing of people
Although this categorisation is predominantly relevant to developed countries, with globalisation and the spread of the internet, it is valid for most emerging countries as well.
The types of traveller identified earlier can now be matched with the generation profile characterises to help target the required segment, with an appropriate and relevant commination initiative.
This indicates that the market segments most likely to travel in the short term are
Gen Z (medium size)
Gen Y (large size)
Gen X –to a lesser extent (Large size)
6.0 Short Term ‘Push’ Marketing- The Communication
So how do you reach out to the Generation Z’s and Y’s ?
The answer is to study their inherent characteristics, and respond accordingly to what motivates them.
The platform must necessary be digital.
The medium must be internet based. Social media, blogs, etc. (Brochures, print media and trade fairs will not work. Even Facebook is outdated)
The message should be based around-
= Health and Safety. ( this will be of paramount importance to all segments)
= Short and sweet, to the point
= Authentic and reliable
= Personalised, small scale programs
= Meaningful stories
= More pictures & Videos
= Highlight social and community benefits
= Ethical travel themes
= Travel for a cause
= Environment, outdoor,
= Nature and wildlife
= Off the beaten track
= Wellness and meditation/yoga
Hence once an analytical approach is taken to identify key market segments based on demographics it will be easier to target the desired travellers with a cost effective communications programme.
In the foregoing I have attempted to show how an analytical approach based on good consumer data, could be, designed and implemented. This is by no means a perfect model, and is presented only as an example. Professional markers will be able to design more comprehensive initiatives. The important fact is that needs to be highlighted is that we must break out of our shackles of being the ‘know-it-all s’ and reach out to good research and information to base our plans on.
Otherwise, Sri Lanka Tourism will continue to blunder around with its’ sawn off double-barrelled shot gun, spraying bullets all over, hitting only a rare target or two’.
Why cry for Djokovic?
By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
Cassandra, who uses her column liberally to criticise our politicians for giving special treatment to their kith and kin, is shedding tears for Novak Djokovic, who was denied special treatment in Australia! She opines that he should have been segregated and allowed to play in the Australian Open and states in her column, in The Island of 21 January:
“Now, the Aussie Open has lost its glamour and even interest to this ole soul – Cassandra. She hoped Nadal and others would withdraw from the OA. But since it was not their deportation, they go along. Hopefully they will publicly comment in support of their co-sportsman. Nadal already spoke out.”
She may have lost interest in the Australian Open as her favourite was deported but it has not lost its glamour as plenty more talented players are left to display their prowess in Tennis. If at all, the Australian Open has lost its glamour, it is due to the misdeeds of Australia Tennis. More than anything else, what I find ludicrous is her suggestion that Nadal and others should have withdrawn from the tournament in support of Djokovic! Nadal has already spoken out and, as mentioned in my piece which she refers to (Australian antics and Djokovic’s disgrace; The Island, 18 January), was very clear that if Djokovic makes a stand, he should be prepared to face the consequences. Djokovic has not had Covid vaccination and was well aware that it was a requirement for entering Australia.
Going even further, Cassandra faults our editor by stating; “The Editor of this paper commented on it and seemed to stand for ‘the Law holds for all’. He made no mention of the health waiver the world’s Number One tennis wizard received which he traded on to go to Melbourne in the first place.” It is a pity she has completely disregarded the fact that this waiver was on false premises as Djokovic could not substantiate that he had any medical contraindications to vaccination. In fact, another player stated that it is hardly conceivable for players who play competitive tennis to have contraindications for Covid vaccination!
Interestingly, Tennis Australia is evasive about the circumstances leading to the waiver; it has now been revealed that the Federal Government had informed them well in advance that dual vaccination was the criterion for entry. The State Government of Victoria has claimed that Tennis Australia kept them in the dark about this.
The position of the Federal Government has been vindicated by the unanimous verdict of the three-judge Bench of the Federal Court of Australia, which confirmed not only the legality but also the reason for cancelling the visa. In giving reasons for their judgement the judges state:
“The minister’s justifications for revoking the visa were not “irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,”
Commenting on the minister’s argument that Mr. Djokovic’s position as a role model who chose to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 could “foster anti-vaccination sentiment”, they found that he has exercised his disctionary powers lawfully and go on to state:
“An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him. This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.”
Cassandra’s cry too illustrates how influential sport stars can be! Perhaps, she should reserve her tears for what may happen in the future. Unless rules are changed, Djokovic would not be able to play in the French Open. Protests, even in Serbia, have died down but it is reported that his sponsors are in talks with Djokovic.
There is yet another interesting twist to the story. According to a post “Mail Online” website , titled “Novak Djokovic’s astonishing Covid-19 decision before coming to Australia is finally revealed”(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10420013/Novak-Djokovics-astonishing-Covid-19-decision-coming-Australia-finally-revealed.html):
“Novak Djokovic’s hesitancy to get vaccinated is well known – but it can also now be revealed the tennis superstar reportedly purchased a majority stake in a Danish biotech company looking to develop a treatment against Covid-19 in June last year.”
has reported that the world number one holds an 80 per cent stake in QuantBioRes, who are currently developing a peptide which prevents the virus from infecting human cells. Djokovic, 34, is said to own 40.8 per cent of the company – while his wife Jelena owns 39.2 per cent.”
Djokovic’s vaccine hesitancy may be for totally different reasons!
Dollar Crisis: What aggravated it
by Eng. D. Godage
Total foreign currency reserves of the country were around seven billion dollars at the beginning of 2021 but it decreased to around 1.2 billion dollars towards the year end, even though the Central Bank announced that there was a reserve of three billion dollars. The net foreign assets of the total banking system are said to be a US$ 4.1 billion deficit by 2021 end. Everybody knows the suffering and difficulties the countrymen undergo as a result of the depletion of foreign currency or dollar reserves. Without elaborating on those effects, it is the intention of the writer to examine how foreign reserves depleted so fast.
Politicians, officials, public speakers very often tend to blame every government since independence over the past 70 years for ruining this country, but with regard to foreign debt, it is not applicable. Moreover, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt globally but other countries in this region did not suffer as much and face such crises like the ones faced by Sri Lanka, so it is no excuse. It is not essential to elaborate on this fact as it is common knowledge. Consequently, the writer makes an attempt to understand how and when it happened. The focus of this discussion is on infrastructure development, and not other debt instruments.
Debt burden since independence
The Oya project implemented around 1948 using local funds comes to mind. Moreover, from 1950 the major port development scheme of Colombo Harbour created the Colombo Port, one of the most modern ports at the time, by 1956 under the leadership of the Minister of Transport and Works, Sir John Kotelawala in the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet, utilising local funds amounting to 110 million rupees. While work was in progress, the ship ‘Gothic’, carrying Queen Elizabeth II, berthed alongside the newly constructed Customs Quay to christen it the Queen Elizabeth Quay (QEQ). Incidentally, the QEQ was buried in the privately developed SAGT or South Asia Gateway Terminals around year 2000.
The Mahaweli Development Project, a massive irrigation cum hydroelectric scheme originally planned for 30 years but telescoped into about six years, was undertaken by the J.R. Jayewardene government using concessionary loans as well as grants. Funds were provided based on a thorough feasibility study, with eminent engineer late Dr. A.N.S Kulasinghe and his team of engineers working as consultants. Resultant benefits are well known and they did not lead to any debt crisis in the country.
Road and railway infrastructure development has been carried out with locally raised funds. After the 2004 tsunami disaster, the Railway Department staff rehabilitated the destroyed line to recommence operations with the least possible delay. It is said that northern rail line improvements carried out later on loans under Uthuru Wasanthaya had spent two to three times the cost.
Since 1980 the country has seen another major development programme in the port sector. Studies had been conducted at a time of increasing demand for container traffic, confirming the urgent need to expand port facilities. The first phase of expansion, requiring US$ 32 million, was funded in the form of a Yen currency loan. The project progressed systematically aided by further loans, through a transparent bidding process. As a result, the Colombo Port was elevated from the global rank of 127 in 1981 to 21st in 1997. These loans were granted only after proper feasibility studies were carried out and confirmation of loan repayment capability, as affirmed by the lending Japanese Agency. Extensive borrowing for project infrastructure became the norm only after about 2000 and not since independence.
Newer debt accumulation
A Sunday English newspaper on March 9, 2014 and May 1, 2016 reported, with details from the External Resources Department, on 28 projects funded predominantly by China Exim Bank loans amounting to US$ 7,671 million, with five-year grace and 10-year repayment periods; their interest rates are not indicated but is supposed to be over six percent. All these projects are said to have been initiated through unsolicited tenders. The same newspaper published a report under the caption, “Normal tender procedure not possible for mega projects: PBJ”. This is a questionable statement. Further examination of the above list shows seven projects, all in Hambantota, totalling US$ 5,054 million, for airport, port, highway extension, railway extension and local road network. None of them seem capable of generating revenue to repay the massive loans even though they have been in operation for around 10 years by now. These loans alone require about US$1 billion per year as repayment, burdening the country, and using up its dollar reserves. During the previous regime the Hambantota Port was given out on a 99-year lease.
Did the Treasury officials who handled these borrowings not see the danger of the debt burden or debt trap and the country’s inability to repay them without adequate future revenue? One can cite the shifting global financial structure and unforeseen circumstances as the reason. But they should have been taken into consideration in any plan. High costs due to unsolicited proposals without a competitive bidding process are also an issue. As for costs, the Treasury Secretary has said that it is the engineers who determine costs. This is not an acceptable excuse.
The Colombo Port South Harbour was found to be an urgent project, and proved viable after an extensive feasibility study by 2001. After producing detailed designs, cost estimates and all implementation requisites, it was not possible to proceed due to lack of funds. The Hambantota Port project was also given high priority by the same government though two feasibility studies failed to show the viability of the project. For the Colombo Port project, the Treasury Secretary advocated commercial borrowing claiming that the lending agency conditions were unacceptable.
In fact, only one lending agency came forward to offer approximately one third of the fund requirement. The Ports Authority managed to obtain very concessionary loan of US$ 300 million in 2006, to proceed with the project, albeit after a two-year delay. The new harbour was completed successfully within the stipulated time and cost while adhering to a transparent tender process. It is worthwhile to note that the lowest cost, approximately US$ 320 million, was quoted by the Korean contractor who successfully completed it, while the next bid was around US$ 570 million by a Chinese contractor. This project seems to be generating more revenue than budgeted.
In fact, the biggest container ship in the world ‘Ever Ace’, with a carrying capacity of 24,000 TEU, berthed in the Colombo South Harbour in October 2021 as it is the only port in the region that could accommodate a ship of that scale, bringing great honour and promoting the Colombo Port.
Most Chinese funded projects that commenced during the past two decades seem now complete and in operation, spread among power and energy, transportation, airport and aviation, ports, irrigation and water sectors. Debt distribution is US$ 1,553 million in power and energy, US$ 3.99 billion in transportation, US$ 232 million in airport and aviation, US$ 1,336 million in ports and US$ 101 million in irrigation. This includes projects indicated by the aforementioned 2016 news item, and subsequent major projects like the Central Highway are not included.
Expensive ventures like the Norochcholai coal power plant costing US$ 1,346 million have helped to meet the country’s energy demands and there has to be a post project evaluation to ascertain its financial gains and loan repayment capacity. Highway projects undertaken on expensive loans do not seem to generate enough revenue to meet dollar loan repayments. Although some benefits accrue, the post project economic and financial evaluations are not satisfactory. The highest revenue on a peak day on the Southern Highway has been 38 million rupees a day. Considering the average annual turnover minus the operation and maintenance costs it could take 100 years to repay loans. Authorities should perform a post project evaluation for the benefit of future planners.
Lessons to learn
This is history but should not be discarded, for the valuable information and data therein demonstrate the actual scenario and resultant repercussions. Decision makers and economic advisors to the government, especially of the Treasury and any other relevant officials could review them.
The debt burden has aggravated the dollar crisis during the past two decades. The COVID-19 pandemic during the past two years is not an excuse as other countries in the region too have faced the same but are performing better. The negative economic growth in 2020 and the considerable dollar debt burden, with the country’s reserves collapsing have not occurred suddenly. Severe import restrictions have made day to day life of the people inconvenient and led to the collapse of some domestic industries.
The worst is yet to come, as warned by the Secretary to the President, delivering a speech in Colombo, as reported by a Sunday English newspaper on 28 Nov. 2021. He was the Treasury Secretary during the past two decades, when China Exim Bank loans were signed to the tune of billions of dollars mostly for white elephant projects, The massive dollar debt seems the root cause of most problems faced today.
Territorial mindset, a recipe for disaster!
By Chani Imbulgoda
I recall a documentary on animal life on a TV channel. Describing the behaviour of lions, a caretaker said, “These lions are from the Dehiwala zoo. They are vigilant of other lions entering their territory, if one crosses the boundary they fight to death. They won’t like other lions entering their territory.” The announcer remarked, “Just like humans!”
Exactly, just like us. In the animal kingdom the survival of the fittest is the norm and not crossing others’ territory is a rule of thumb. Since the beginning of human civilisation there have been tales of battles. The Trojan war, Alexander’s, Caesar’s, Napoleon’s wars degraded human values. Saddled with cynicism, hostility and jealousy, we humans, like beasts, are at war with ‘others’ who do not fit into our ideologies or our comfort zones. History is a storehouse of tales of human battles over territories in the guise of civilisation. So-called civilisation itself was won over battles. In the local context, the native ‘Yakkhas’ were massacred by Prince Vijaya to develop ‘Sinhale’. America, Canada, Australia inherit a dark history of looting territories of indigenous people in the name of civilisation. Portugal, Spain, Britain tasted the blood of their ‘colonial slaves’. Centuries later, we have not yet shed our primary animal instincts. We battle tooth and nail to protect our territories, our autonomy, values and interests all in the guise of civilised behaviour.
We rarely welcome outsiders into our territories. In the 40s and 50s, women were kept out of men’s territory. Late British Prime Minister aka Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, had to struggle many years to break through another of man’s territories, the Parliament. In the movie ‘Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley’, she sobs to her husband that contrary to what she previously believed, despite hard work she cannot win on merit and that dedication and passion are irrelevant. One-time Prime Minister, Edward Heath condemns Thatcher’s outspoken nature to force her out of politics. Heath says that the Parliament is akin to an orchestra made up of many musicians and Thatcher is a French horn more loud than appropriate, that threatens the orchestra’s harmony.
This is how men and also women of the same flock air their resentment towards outsiders, in their own words ‘intruders’ who are colourful and loud in action. Insult, indifference, suspicion, suppression, oppression are not uncommon experiences of pioneers in anything in history or at present. I once heard a senior Professor advising a young colleague attempting to change the system for the better, “Lady, look, do not swim upstream, people would not like it.” Yes, despite good intentions any novel act breaks the harmony…That is why the Buddha had many foes. That is why the notorious thief Barabbas was chosen by the crowd over Jesus.
I tried to uproot a tiny cinnamon sapling that grew through my interlock pavement blocks, failing which I crushed it. It made me realise that this is what happens, no matter how valuable you are. If you crop up in a place where you would not be accepted, every effort is made to root out, failing which, crush you, to ensure that you would not resurface. I suppose many of us had faced similar circumstances at work places, in politics or within social circles. Why does this happen, because of ego, envy, distrust or insecurity? Or because someone deemed a threat by another individual, a leader or a group enters their territory?
A pack of wolves has a leader; the protection of lions’ territory is the responsibility of the leader; the leader is the first to announce danger. No outsider can cross the boundary. We see certain lions, wolves and foxes as alphas. The mentality ‘I am the boss, I know everything’ blinds them. They live on ego, with a superiority complex, under the assumption that no one can challenge their power. If the newcomer is meek and sucks up to the leader, he or she survives and can slowly squirm their way into the pack.
I have heard parents complain about how difficult it is to enrol their kids into various sports clubs in schools. I have worked in private as well as public sector organisations, local and overseas. I have experienced antagonistic behaviour in these organisations. Driven by their insecurity, superior or inferior complexes, they would go to any lengths to harass the outsider and go to any extreme to protect his or her territory. They are myopic to the point of rejecting ideas foreign to them no matter how good they are, as they see ‘danger’ in ideas alien to them. Some group ideologies are thicker than blood. Certain professional groups rarely welcome females. They believe that women cannot meet challenges as men do and can be fiercely territorial. Many qualified and capable individuals are ostracised from organisations or industries or expelled from positions because of this territorial mindset.
A person with a territorial mindset is often overcome by thoughts of safeguarding or enhancing his or her power, control, influence and self-proclaimed status. These are primitive emotions. Taking ownership and defending what people believe belongs to them is a positive trait. But it is this mentality that subjects newcomers to agony when they grow too smart for their own good. They are stifled when the power of those with a territorial mindset is threatened. Many novel ideas and skills go to waste while some newcomers or ‘misfits’ are forced to leave their workplaces, others would continue the fight or be forced to conform.
We talk of harmony, reconciliation, tolerance and unity in diversity. Why cannot we synergize each other’s differences? A French horn would add glamour and at least amuse the audience. A garden consisting of a variety of flowers is more awe-inspiring than a garden of roses alone. Poet Khalil Gibran said that when a river enters the sea, the river is no more, it is diluted in salt water and one cannot trace the river in the sea, but the river grows larger and so does the sea. When we come out of our confining shells we are exposed to greater opportunities as well as benefits for both the newcomer and those already in that society.
(The writer holds a senior position in a state university and has an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management [PIM], Sri Lanka and is currently reading for her PhD in Quality Assurance in the Higher Education Sector at PIM. She can be reached at email@example.com)
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