Tourism in Sri Lanka – an addendum
Posted on August 30th, 2010

Dr. Tilak Fernando

Several positive feedbacks to my article, “ƒ”¹…”We need to get the act right’ (published on August 2) prompted me to write an addendum to it in the hope that we all, as patriotic Sri Lankans, expect and wish that Sri Lanka’s aim in promoting tourism in an excellent scale meets with the anticipated targets by 2012.

The Ceylon Tourist Board metamorphosed to become The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) under Section two of the Tourism Act (No. 38 of 2005). Its commitment is to “ƒ”¹…”transform Sri Lanka to be Asia’s most important tourism destination’.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa accepts tourism as a vital area and has identified this sector as the effectively capable driving force for the country’s socio economic development in the future. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has vowed “ƒ”¹…”to take every possible effort to turn the tourism industry into the highest foreign income earner of the country’.

 

With this backdrop, former Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lanka Insurance, Dr Nalaka Godahewa has taken over the responsibility as the SLTDA Chairman to execute this yeoman task to make “Sri Lanka’s golden beaches a major tourist attraction for the real sun seeker”.

SLTDA believes that “ƒ”¹…”the human resources, natural and cultural endowments, values and ethos will be fundamental in transforming Sri Lanka into a centre of excellence, and it is preparing to offer the highest values of authentic experience in its unique setting’.

To achieve all these intended goals what is vital is a dynamic and experienced team of professionals in hospitality management, tourism planning and development, research and marketing, PR and project management, finance, subsidies and sustainable tourism development.

Going online

In the process of promoting tourism, Information Technology (IT) becomes a crucial requisite where the services of a competent Internet Web engineer is indispensable in the development of variety of tourism based web applications such as booking modules, reservation systems, games/contests, online questionnaires, content management systems (CMS) and project management modules.

Tissa Nanayakkara, who responded effectively, appears to be a worldwide business traveller who has experienced high standards of hospitality in several countries in the West, East and Africa. With his ample experience and understanding of what good services and basic facilities that are required in a successful tourist destination, he tends to agree that most Sri Lankans, particularly those who have vested interests in the tourism industry, have their own views to revive and make the sector the engine of growth before going on a frenzy of building shoddy hotel rooms.

His suggestion would be to have a detailed and viable development plan encompassing this sector which will cover not only the big infrastructure development projects but an overall improvement strategy as a country.

We are surrounded by conservative countries and entertainment is South Asian in its outlook. Everyone agrees that the Colombo City is congested and is very South Asian in outlook with uninviting ramshackle buses and three wheelers. Reducing vehicular traffic to Colombo at least in city limits and making the city as green as possible, and replacing them with regulated taxi and a quality bus service would be an ideal thought.

Level up to such a status, it is suggested that the city needs to be transformed to an entertainment centre (Designated Zones) with cafes, pubs, coffee bars, restaurants, broad footpaths, health centres, night clubs and amusement parks (of good quality, safe and reasonable. Sri Lanka’s aim should be to become a “ƒ”¹…”Singapore’ or “ƒ”¹…”Macau’ in the South Asia, for which investors need government incentives and genuine encouragement.

Colombo has limited attractions of visual appeal. We will need to have galleries/ museums, parks, golf courses, cinemas, art centres for which many such infrastructure development led by the Government.

Nuwara Eliya could be an alternative location for the entertainment centre – Similar to “ƒ”¹…”Genting Highlands’. Infrastructure development in key tourist towns, such as Hikkaduwa, N’Eliya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trinco, Galle and Kandy, need to be seriously considered. Buddhism as a source could be turned into a tourist attraction for many foreigners who have turned to Buddhism, by creating Meditation Centres and temples and also introducing centres to study Buddhism at various tourist towns.

Cleanliness and safety

Sri Lanka is blessed with 20 world class beaches. They need to be protected and cared for as an asset, bearing in mind that cleanliness and safety factors are paramount.

Sri Lanka has so many diverse attractions to offer – Adam’s Peak, wildlife parks, historical sites, Horton Plains, tea plantations, Sigiriya, Sinharaja Forest, Ballooning, adventure sports, sun & sand, and the offer is almost endless. It is important that SLTDA takes the lead in supporting and marketing these areas with good basic amenities, convenience and reasonable rates among other things.

Sports tourism is a gigantic attraction the world over – surfing, golf, cricket, ballooning, kayaking and water rafting, mountain trekking, off-roading are areas that will attract a multitude of tourists with varying degree of interests.

SLTDA needs to encourage bed and breakfast (B/B) operations and register owners with minimum standards. The 20K room-short fall can be met in a short time through this concept while expensive rooms can come up gradually.

Another important point would be to cater to a particular segment of tourist. Prices should not be reduced to accommodate all and sundry, rather attract a middle class/up market tourist who will spend lavishly and enjoy themselves.

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