Sri Lanka

Changing the tourism landscape

Sep 28, 2017
The government is to bring in a new Tourism Promotions Law to boost tourism related sectors, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared on Sunday at the AGM of the Hotel School Graduates Association in Tangalle. “There will be a new Tourism Promotions Law. The Tourism Authority will not run the industry alone,” he said.
The Premier also spoke of the need to make tourism applicable for all seasons. “We must make Sri Lanka a 365 day destination. If you land in Mattala and it is raining there you should be able to go in another direction. Why aren’t we making Sri Lanka 365 days?”, he queried.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe could not be more accurate in this respect. The tourism industry, and its actors, have for too long depended on the winter season to attract the western traveller and have put all their eggs in the “winter basket”. Ask any tour operator, or travel agent, and one will be told that the good times are ahead (for the industry), now that winter is neigh. The industry should wriggle out of this mindset and be geared up to cater to all comers in all seasons.
Like the premier said, the world tourism market has changed as it was no longer Europeans who come in here with travel agents. “Travel agents are no more. Travelling is controlled by others. We are living in another world. Big airlines, we once knew, are no longer there. Even budget airlines are having trouble. However people are travelling here. It is the Asian travellers we are going to have. Things have changed”.
In essence, what the PM said is that the industry has to think out of the box, to get down travellers, round the year, from all destinations. For too long has the industry been operating in a strait jacket, merely content in marketing our beautiful beaches and focusing on the ancient ruins and historical monuments. Even the big tourist hotels are cited at these spots. But the face of tourism, the world over, has changed. Today it is not just the history, the beaches or the cultural aspects of a country that the traveller is interested in. Tourism has evolved to include novel aspects and features such as eco-tourism. Like the PM noted, we should think out of the box and get down world renowned performers in the fields of music and other entertainment as tourist draws. The game of cricket too has opened new vistas for tourism, with tour operators, from cricket playing nations, bringing in multitudes of supporters for the entire duration of a series, that could be a good advertisement for the tourism industry. Have we exploited these opportunities to earn the maximum revenue, for the industry, from these visits?
The Prime Minister also made note of an important aspect of attracting tourists when he dwelt on leisure activities that offer much potential such the creation of world class golf courses in areas such as Galle, Kandy and Iranawila and cruise lines, luxury trains etc.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga hails from an electorate that offer much scope for the development of tourism. The beautiful canals and waterways stretching from Puttalam, that cut across his Wattala electorate, winding their way bordered by breathtaking scenery and exotic wildlife, no doubt, would be a big draw with tourists. Why cannot the Minister think of commencing luxury pleasure boat services, catering to the tourists, on these waterways that, no doubt, would attract foreigners in their numbers, reminiscent of the Gondolas operating in the network of canals in Venice?
Be that as it may, the tourism industry which was dealt a body-blow during the war years, needs to be revamped and reorganised, to cater to the modern day demands. All measures must be taken to attract the big time spender, by paying attention to infrastructure development. We have been coasting along, quite satisfied with the traditional features of tourism development. The Prime Minister, himself, has spelt out what needs to be done, to get things on track, for the rapid development of this most vital sector of the country’s economy. It is hoped that all those involved in the industry would pay heed and do their utmost to turn things around.
The right royal spat that was witnessed between a very senior member of the UNP and a relatively new entrant to the party, the other day, in Ja-ela, was something that could have been avoided. Joseph Micheal Perera entered parliament as far back as 1976, winning the by-election for Ja-ela and is a UNP veteran, which should have been taken into consideration by the organisers of the meeting in question. If anyone deserved to address the meeting, which opportunity was denied to him, he did, as much as for the immense sacrifices he has made on behalf of the party, as for his loyalty to the party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, both in fair and foul weather. The UNPers, who have been having a running battle with the SLFP MPs in the Unity Government, it appears, have turned the guns on their own. 
Daily Times, September 28, 2017

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