Sri Lanka should give the tourists, a purely Sri Lankan vacation, without making it a Western Style vacation in a Sri Lankan Setting.
Posted on July 8th, 2009

By Charles.S.perera

Sri Lanka is proposing to launch into tourism in a big way. The government perhaps considers that tourism is the ultimate in earning the much needed foreign currency. It may perhaps be so. But tourism has its advantages and disadvantages . The developing countries exploiting tourism as a money earner should do so with the greater interest of the country and its people. Greed whether it is that of an individual or a country could lead to disastrous results. Therefore, the greed to make tourism a money earner may not be in the best interest of a developing country.

 If one is an observant tourist to Egypt it would be apparent that tourism has failed to affect the lives of the ordinary people in Egypt, despite it being the fourth biggest money earner of the country. Egypt of course has its potential to attract tourists. The remains of its glorious past is a sure tourist attraction, even without any thing else to promote. There is no one that could resist a voyage on the Nile River in an attractive boat with all modern facilities visiting the ancient Pharaonic temples of Karnack, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae and Luxor after visiting the great Pyramids.

 Besides the remains of the glories of the past civilizations, Egypt has no modern developments on the show case for visitors to see. Luxor besides its remains of the past is a drab township, dirty, without any sort of planned development, the people are poorly , badly dressed, streets and path ways are dirt dumps, dismal roadside boutiques are an eye sore.

 In Egypt every thing seems to be hackneyed and old fashioned. No where can one buy anything without haggling for prices. It is very tiring to do any shopping in Egypt. Why have they no fixed prices for articles displayed for sale like every where else ? That is how it is it in Egypt which is promoting tourism in a big way.

 Taking a bus from Luxor to the Tourist resort at Hurghada is past villages with derelict large ” huts” providing the domestic “comforts” of the poor people. There are no extensive cultivated land, though Egypt’s economy is said to be largely on agriculture. People own small plots of land in which they seem to cultivate what pleases them such as vegetables, corn or what not without any pattern or an order. However, it is said that agriculture had been improved by the introduction of new technology, but it is not apparent on the road sides from Luxor to Hurghada.

 Egypt seems between remains of its past glory, and mid way to modernity. Leaving the squalid town of Luxor going past the poor villages and through the barren desert of sand and rocks you enter into another city ” a paradise”. It is the Egypt’s tourist resort Hurghada. Every comfort and luxury one seeks is at hand. The roads are clean and well kept. There are gardens, clean paths, parking lots, shops, clinics, Dispensaries, and Medical services and restaurants. Every thing the ordinary people seemed to lack in Luxor is available in plenty in Hurghada.

 The ” tourist resort” is spread over miles of terrain, with different hotel complexes owned by foreign investors and rich Egyptians. The hotels in the tourist resort are clean, and air conditioned. There are swimming pools, tennis courts, and recreation halls. Well dressed retinue of workers keep the gardens, the beaches, maintain the hotels, room services and restaurants. There is plenty of food, used and wasted while the Egyptian villagers lack enough food, clothes and proper living conditions.

 This is only an example. Tourism brings in considerable foreign exchange to Egypt. But this wealth does not seem to have trickled down to the ordinary people whose living conditions are much to be desired. The large number of workers in the holiday resort in Hurghada do not speak either English or any other language well enough to communicate. But they have started working in these holiday resorts leaving behind their studies as conditions are more attractive.

 I would not like to see that happening in Sri Lanka. But it would be no different if Sri Lanka too gets foreign companies and locals to invest in the development of holiday resorts.

 But that seems to be what the Sri Lanka Tourist Ministry seems to be doing. It would be a shame to develop tourist resorts to make the tourists happy, without developing the country side of Sri Lanka, its rivers, canals, towns and villages, making whole of Sri Lanka a big tourist attraction. That is how money from tourism should be utilised for the development of the country.

 If tourism is allowed to be taken over by the private sector without any central planning by the government, it would be like what it is in Egypt or many other developing countries, such as Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia etc.

 There was a report that Sri Lanka Tourist Board wants to develop the small Islands around Mannar for tourism. But it is not small Islands around Sri Lanka that should be developed , but the whole of Sri Lanka, all big towns in Sri Lanka should be developed to receive tourists with clean sanitary facilities, drainage system, roads , pavements, and parks.

 Sanitary conditions are diplorable even in the two main towns Colombo, and Kandy. The restaurants are not clean and none of the restaurants used by the locals have proper toilet facilities. It is a shame to go into a toilet in a restaurant in Kandy or Colombo.

 Even the Kandy Hospital is badly in need of clean well maintained toilets both for the patients and visitors. It lacks cleanliness. There are no clean halls to receive patients and visitors.

 These are what should be looked in to first, before requesting the private sector to develop the Islands around Sri Lanka as ” holiday resorts “.

 The Country as a whole should be developed not only to attract tourists but also for the sake of the local people. What is the use of providing luxury holidays to foreigners when our own people lack a proper standard of living. If the local people do not know how to use modern facilities they should be introduced to them, so that they will get into the habit of using them properly.

 Even some of the schools I had the occasion to visit in Kandy and Colombo had no proper toilet facilities. Therefore, before efforts are made to build ” luxury cities as holiday resorts” for the well being of the tourists, the country as a whole should be refurbished so that any tourist will not feel disgusted going into a toilet or a wash room in any local restaurant, any where in Sri Lanka. That should also be a part of the preparation of Sri Lanka for a tourist boom.

 The developed countries of the West have no difficulty in brining in tourists as they have already clean and modernised living standards and cleanliness has been inculcated into their society. We in Sri Lanka have not started doing that and it is time some sort of standardisation of sanitary conditions in all towns in Sri Lanka is taken up.

 There should be special Inspectors trained by the health department to survey the sanitary conditions of hotels, restaurants, and all eating places. Railway Stations and Bus Stands should have clean toilet facilities. This is what should be developed by the Tourist Board as a means to attract tourists.

 A tourist coming to Sri Lanka should be able to enjoy a Sri Lankan vacation, not a pseudo European vacation in a Sri Lankan setting. The foreigners have no shortage of alcohol in their own countries, therefore, they could be made to spend a vacation in Sri Lanka without sipping foreign liquor. Is it necessary to buy large stocks of wines for hotels meant for tourists, if they are provided with Lankan meals ?

 There are far too many night clubs and bars in Sri Lanka. They should not be made a tourist attractions as they often bring vice in to society. Discos and Dancing clubs should be replaced by introducing the tourist to Sri Lankan Cultural shows.

All tourists who come to our shores are not the cream of the foreign society. It is known that tourism brings in pedophiles, prostitution, drug traffickers, and criminals of all sorts. Therefore, tourism should not be treated as a panacea for economic ills.

 Our Museums are far below the International standard of good Museums. A national Museum should have more open halls, places to rest, a cafeteria, rooms for videos and lectures and set in a pleasant environment. Therefore all our National Museums should be remodelled to attract foreign tourists.

 India has attracted large numbers of tourists through the introduction of Ayurvedic treatment in special hospitals. Sri Lanka could also introduce such health resorts for short term treatments.

 It is not the International Community which will help us to develop our country the way we want. We see it from the IMF which is hesitating even to grant a loan for the intended development projects of Sr Lanka.

 IMF too would like the developing countries to be the play grounds of the rich white tourists. That is what Cuba was under Baptista. It was that Cuba that Fidel Castro delivered back to the people. It is the peoples’ Cuba of to-day that is subjected to economic suffering by America and the International Community by with holding aid to its development.

 Therefore, the developing Nations should rise to the occasion and develop their countries in a simple way, by first giving its own people a better standard of living without seeking for tourist booms to bring in foreign money.

 Instead of turning the Islands around Sri Lanka as tourist resorts, Sri Lanka should build more hotels to accommodate the tourists. That would be more appropriate than have tourists resort entirely for the benefit of tourists.

 I hope the new Minister will plan out tourism in a way more appropriate to our culture, without getting the private sector to build cities as holiday resorts for tourists.

 The tourists coming to Sri Lanka should be provided with an appropriate Sri Lankan Vacation , instead of a Western Style vacation in a Sri Lankan Setting.


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