- Invests over Rs. 7 m to conduct certification process for 650 tourist entities in Phase I
- Over 50 companies have already expressed readiness to be assessed
- DG expresses confidence in completing certification process by September, to coincide with BIA re-opening
By Charumini de Silva
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has awarded KPMG Sri Lanka the contract to issue the ‘Safe and Secure’ COVID-19 safety standard compliance certification to registered accommodation and service providers.
As part of recovery efforts, the SLTDA will roll out this compliance certification process to enhance cleanliness and hygiene practices for 650 tourism-related entities and individuals, covering service providers as well as activity/attraction places in the first phase, currently in operation. SLTDA is investing over Rs. 7 million in the first phase and the first assessment will be free of charge.
“We have now awarded the tender to KPMG Sri Lanka, which has international experience in the health and hospitality industry, to conduct the certification process for tourism establishments in the country,” SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe told the Daily FT.
SLTDA shortlisted four audit companies with international experience in the health and hospitality industry to outsource the COVID-19 safety standard compliance certification process for hotels, before selecting KPMG Sri Lanka.
Wijayasinghe said the implementation of ‘Safe and Secure’ guideline execution, assessment and certification process will now be fast-tracked to all SLTDA registered entities waiting to resume operations. The compliance certification is open to all accommodation providers and travel agents registered with SLTDA — the regulatory and standards setting body of the industry.
“All tourists will be required to stay in COVID-19 health and safety compliant accommodation, be it a five-star hotel, resort, or home-stays, and have their tours arranged by certified travel agents. Tourism establishments that pass the compliance assessment will be given a ‘Safe and Secure’ certificate and decals to display on their premises as a ‘trust mark’ of assurance to tourists. When tourism resumes, such certified parties will be given priority to conduct tourism services to international travellers,” she said.
The Director General pointed out that it was necessary for the SLTDA to ensure all hygiene and health measures are in place to reopen tourism focusing on safety of tourists, stakeholders and general public.
In June, the Government decided to introduce a COVID-19 safety standard compliance certification for all SLTDA registered entities, in a move to reassure tourists considering Sri Lanka for their next holiday post-pandemic.
SLTDA also presented the tourism operational guidelines in line with health protocols in consultation with all tourism stakeholders, and under the guidance of the Health Ministry and WHO. The audit firm will issue the compliance certification after a strict inspection and auditing process under the purview of the Health Ministry.
“This is a joint initiative by Sri Lanka Tourism and the Health Ministry. Hotels that are complying with international best practices outlined by WHO and the Health Ministry of Sri Lanka have a better chance to obtain the certificate,” she added.
Noting that over 50 companies have already informed SLTDA of their readiness for inspection, Wijayasinghe said the duration for larger establishments would be around five to six hours, while others could be completed within a few hours. She also noted that if the free-of-charge first inspection is failed, the hotel will have to bear the cost the second time.
The costing for the second evaluation process will vary depending on the sub-category. Sub-categories include three-star hotels and above, one- and two-star hotels and tourist hotels, boutique hotels, villas and deluxe bungalows, guest houses, restaurants, tourist eating places and shops, travel agencies, tourist guides and drivers, attractions and activity places.
At present there are over 2,500 SLTDA registered entities. The Director General also expressed confidence in issuing the certification by September, coinciding with the reopening of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for foreign travellers.
Sri Lanka’s tourism has been hit by COVID-19 with zero foreign travellers during the past three months of April, May and June. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) data depicted the dismal “0” for tourist arrivals in these three months.
The zero figure for three consecutive months owing to the COVID-19 shutdown has forced first half cumulative tourist arrivals number to reflect a drastic 50% plunge to 507,311. The Government terminated arrival of all passenger flights and ships into Sri Lanka from 18 March.
The pandemic has caused a collapse in tourist arrivals particularly from Europe, a key source market, and the fear of travel to COVID-19-affected countries such as Sri Lanka, has also led to significant cancellation of business and leisure events, tours and hotel bookings.