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Luxury travel brands today are operating within the transformation economy. Brands must align themselves with experiences that speak to affluent consumers’ desire for a personal evolution.

Shangri-la is opening its newest hotel this month in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and will host its first major event — the Ironman 70.3 — in 2018.

The brand synchronicity between a luxury hospitality group and one of the toughest sporting events held today are not immediately evident, but a second glance reveals the audience alignment.

Colombo is Shangri-La’s 5th hotel opening this year with plans to introduce at least seven more properties across Asia before 2020. Colombo itself however does not currently top any destination lists. Sri Lanka is one of the least branded destinations in Asia and the WTTC forecasts that the country’s travel and tourism GDP will grow a modest 6.3 percent over the next decade.

Both Shangri-La and Ironman are invested in changing that.

“There’s a strategic push to position Sri Lanka as a preferred destination for world class events,” explains Chris McFall, director of sales and marketing for Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo.

“There have been 255 Ironman branded events globally and none have been held in the South Asian region until now. Both Ironman and Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo are working to put Sri Lanka on the map for global sporting events.”

Beyond the obvious business goals, the Shangri-La and Ironman partnerships allows each brand to borrow brand elements from the other and relay those to their customers.

The legacy and elegance of the Shangri-La brand lends its air of luxury and exclusivity to Ironman, which brings its own strong brand affinities with passion, dedication and performance.

“Ironman is driven by the passion of its athletes who believe that anything is possible when the limits of endurance are pushed. As a global brand Shangri-La believes in pushing the limits and exceeding guest expectations,” says McFall.

Ironman announced its entry into Sri Lanka last Spring as part of a larger push in the South Asia region where, company representatives say, interest in Ironman is growing every year. It’s worth noting that the Shangri-La Resort in Cebu has been race central for the Ironman there for the last six years, but never as an official partner.

Sporting events and competitions can be a strong driver of tourism especially in the meetings space. For example, sporting events played a key role in the growth of Phuket’s meetings and events demand, according to C9 Hotelworks.

Photo Credit: An image from the the 2016 Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Donald Miralle / Ironman