From left: Tourism Monitoring MP Harshana Rajakaruna, Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi, Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga, Advisory Committee Chairman Harry Jayawardena and Senior Advisor to the Minister Felix Rodrigo
With an eye on achieving the targeted three million tourist arrivals this year, a newly constituted Tourism Advisory Committee has been appointed by Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga. The 14- member Committee comprises the cream of private sector tourism stakeholders and is headed by business magnate Harry Jayawardena.
The other members of the Tourism Advisory Committee are: Dammika Perera (Hayleys), Merril Fernando (Dilmah), Abbas Esufally (Hemas), Sanjiv Gardiner (Galle Face Hotel Group), Krishan Balendra (John Keells), Shiromal Cooray (Jetwing), Kuok Meng Xiong (Shangri-la), Ashok Pathirage (Softlogic), C.J. Wickremasinghe (Connaissance), Raman Murthy (Taj Hotels), Nalin Jayasundera (Aitken Spence Travels), Vipula Gunatilleka and N. Ranasinghe.
The Committee Coordinator is Dinesh Weerakkody while the Convenor is Felix Rodrigo.
The new Advisory Committee met for the first time at the Tourism Ministry recently under the auspices of Minister John Amaratunga. The Chairman of the four tourism bureau and department heads presented their respective performance reports and forward plans to the Advisory Committee.
Minister Amaratunga stated that arrivals so far this year are on target and Sri Lanka stands to benefit from some big international events that are to be held in the country this year. Some of them include the IronMan and Raid Amazon events, CITES Global Conference of Parties which will see the participation of nearly 4,000 foreign delegates in May and the Worldwide Bohra community spiritual gathering that will attract around 30,000 followers.
Minister Amaratunga expressed confidence that with the stabilisation of the political environment and security situation, arrivals are likely to pick up much faster in the latter part of the year.
Tourism Advisory Committee Chairman Harry Jayawardena noted that it was a commendable move to bring Wildlife under the Tourism portfolio as the two subjects were interconnected. He noted that this was a major strength and many pending issues could now be easily resolved.
Jayawardena also cautioned the industry about price undercutting, stating that it is the country that will have to face the repercussions of a price war. He called for unity among the major players and to work towards the greater good of the industry.
John Keells Chairman Krishan Balendra drew attention to the airport capacity issue which continues to be a major stumbling block to the industry. He pointed out that if four million arrivals are to be achieved by 2020, there must be a corresponding increase in airport capacity. Balendra added that a new terminal was no longer an option but an urgent necessity.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Tourism revealed that its main targets for the next two years were to achieve Rs. 7 billion in foreign exchange earnings, provide direct and permanent employment to 600,000 individuals out of whom at least 10% would be women, and to increase the per capita spend per tourist from the present $ 164 to $ 210 per visitor.
In order to prepare for the anticipated larger numbers, Sri Lanka Tourism is to invest in new infrastructure development, expedite resort land alienation, informal sector integration and strengthen Tourist Police and lifesaving presence in all key resort areas. Sri Lanka Tourism will also facilitate loans for development of home stay units, construction of additional rooms in identified locations and also expedite new resort development.
The Tourism Advisory Committee is expected to meet regularly and monitor progress of the proposed development initiatives.