Tourist arrivals have increased more than 100% in 2014 in Sri Lanka, when compared to the situation before the war ended in 2009, said B.M.U.D. Basnayake, the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy, at a conference on environmental management practices in hotel sector in Sri Lanka.
The conference, hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), the country’s apex think tank on socioeconomic policy research, was held last Tuesday at the IPS Auditorium, and mainly focused on a study titled ‘Environmental Management Practices in the Hotel Sector’. The study, which was funded by the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), assesses adoption of environmental management practices in the hotels in the Western Province.
With tourism being one of the most highlighted economic sectors in the country, especially after the end of the war in 2009, the Government has set up ambitious targets to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016. However, as an industry which consumes significant quantities of water and energy resources, there appears to be less attention on the environmental implications resulting through tourism.
Deliberating on the need to instil good environmental management practices in Sri Lanka’s hotel sector, Basnayake stated that given the current tourism trends, the adoption of sustainable environmental management strategies would lead to a better reputation in country’s hotel industry and would increase consumer demand.
Commending IPS on presenting a comprehensive plan to promote and manage nature tourism in Sri Lanka, Basnayake also highlighted on some of the significant initiatives presently in place in terms of environment management and conservation including Green Reporting System, the Green Award Program and Environment Protection License Scheme.
Stating that sustainability of the sector clearly depends on the sustainability of the resources, Basnayake noted that tourism projects ensuring resource conservation is much needed to save environmental resources for the future generations of Sri Lanka.
Delivering the welcome address, IPS Executive Director Dr. Saman Kelegama stated that this dissemination workshop should not be considered as the end of a research study, but should inspire future research that looks into promoting tourism in a sustainable manner.
Presenting the key findings of the study, IPS Research Officer Kanchana Wickramasinghe highlighted space and structural barriers and lack of financial and human resources as some of the common constraints for not adopting good environmental management practices by hotels in the country.
She also noted that environmental management in hotels is significantly influenced by certain characteristics such as chain affiliation, location as well as on hotel classification. Furthermore, Wickramasinghe noted that proper environment management techniques should be introduced at the initial stages of designing hotels or during refurbishment, and that there is a tendency of hotels adopting good practices when they receive awareness, training and capacity building support – implying the need of effective awareness on improving environmental management in the hotel industry.
Apart from main discussion on the findings of the study, the conference also had a panel discussion featuring Rainforest Ecolodge Ltd. Chairman Prema Cooray, Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Past President Srilal Miththapala, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Director Research and International Affairs Malraj Kiriella and John Keells Hotels Vice President – Brand Marketing Dileep Mudadeniya.
The discussion of this mainly looked into the identification of research needs in promoting sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka. The need to promote the Natural Eco-Tourism Policy, the importance of hotel classification and having a national accreditation approach, and the need to incorporate sustainable tourism education in the curriculum of Sri Lanka’s hotel schools were also discussed as vital approaches in making environmental management practices significant in the country’s hotel sector.