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Diplomats visit HDCC and meet tourism stakeholders of the district

Comments / 1152 Views / Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:30

With the aim of witnessing the progress of the infrastructure projects, particularly those related to the tourism and transport services sectors, the French Ambassador Christine Robichon, British High Commissioner John Rankin and the German Ambassador Dr. Jurgen Morhard accompanied by the Trade Counsellors of their Embassies visited the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC) where they toured the Harbour, International Convention centre, Airport development project and a large scale tourism development project in the Hambantota District.   

The HDCC arranged a meeting to exchange views and provide background knowledge about the HDCC, its activities and development projects, being taking place in the District.

The  meeting   was attended by HDCC President Alhaj M. Shaheed Usuph, Past President Tilar Nadugala and  Deep South Tourism Development Committee members Suresh  De Mel, S.J.L.K. Mannakkara, Priyankara Wickramasekara and representatives from Hotel Elephant Reach, Hotel Oasis, Palm Paradise Cabanas and Mandara Rosen Hotel.

Christine Robichon in her opening remarks mentioned: “We are particularly happy to have this opportunity to build a relationship with Sri Lanka. We welcome the development of the district and of the entire country, particularly these important infrastructure projects and to be involved as partners.

“We are eager to have contact with the private sector and witness the opportunities being provided by the two sectors in each district, for our companies to increase the trade relations with this part of the country and also the investment opportunities in the tourism sector and international transport by sea and air.”

HDCC CEO Krishanthi Weerasinghe in her presentation provided key insights into the business climate in the Hambantota District.

Krishanthi said that the work of the Port and International airport had begun to make significant monetary contributions to the local economy. These and other planned developments will boost the socio-economy as well as ensure a rapid change in the business and economic environment.

She also listed some of the emerging ongoing business opportunities and said that planned mega infrastructure development in the District had opened up opportunities for industries and support services such as health, communication, education, training, financial services and logistics.

Whilst the district had not seen such a scale of development before, there were many challenges as well. In response to these the HDCC is encouraging joint ventures between large enterprises and entrepreneurs of the District and promoting small and large business partnerships. Additionally, it also seeks transfer of management, technology and innovative financial solutions.  

She said HDCC provides business development services, spearheads dialogue with relevant district, provincial, and national level organisations and disseminates information, facilitates and coordinates.

Our dream is to become a ‘one stop shop’ dedicated to supporting the business community and its development.    Part of this would be the USAID-funded ‘Promoting entrepreneurship and empowering women in the Hambantota District’ project, which provides business start-up support to local women and capacity building of existing business women.

“HDCC announced the formation of Businesswomen’s Wing in the chamber to serve as a networking platform and to create a voice for businesswomen.

Krishanthi briefed about HDCC involvement in the tourism development in the District and said “Deep South is the creative theme of the HDCC’s tourism development program, which seeks to promote the Hambantota District as a prime tourist destination.

“HDCC had undertaken a number of activities to boost the tourism industry with the active participation and assistance from Mercy Corps USA and technical support from Manchester Solutions UK.

“Tourism development is an important component of the HDCC Manchester solutions partnership project, which has been in place since 2005.”

She further mentioned that Hambantota District is currently on the national and regional political and economic radar. Over the next two to three years, billions of public investments are being made in the district. Many of these are focused on the tourism sector.

Krishanthi said there are two priority areas to improve the tourism sector of the district. There is a clear need for a range of skills development across the range of factors in the tourism sector.

While the focused skills development is ongoing, it is also important that there is progress on the overall planning for tourism sector growth in the district.

Tourism stakeholders highlighted the need for coordination among various public and private sector institutions, but also strongly supported the role of HDCC as convener and secretariat for this coordination.

Christine Robichon pointed out there are prospects to develop tourism from France. Eco tourism is something which really interests her fellow citizens.

During the discussion with tourism stakeholders HDCC Director Suresh De Mel and Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET) Sri Lanka President highlighted that: “The tourism industry in the District was primarily small and medium scale, and mostly informal.  

“Due to its lack of organisation, this community is unable to provide quality services and derive the proper benefits that the tourism industry affords them.  

“HDCC has identified that it is a priority to organise this informal sector and to share knowledge of good practice across the industry.  

“HDCC has been encouraging the strengthening of local tourism associations as a first step toward formalising this sector.  

“HDCC maintains a good rapport with the informal sector and lobbies for more resources to develop local private sector institutional capacity to empower SME’s in the District.”

He thanked the ambassadors for recognising HDCC and encouraged the strengthening of HDCC’s linkages with service providers and investors from their respective countries.

Priyankara Hotel Tissamaharama Managing Director Priyankara Wickramasekera and Hambantota Region President of the Hoteliers Association of the South said: “We need to arrange training facilities for members of the local community who are involved in tourism. Practical education is more beneficial to someone’s career than a certificate.

“On-the-job training helps people get the skills they need more effectively than through attending hotel schools.” He added, “We need to build  our capacity to lobby authoritatively, in order to manage the growth in tourism, and maintain the District’s valuable nature reserves, such as Bundala and Yala.”

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