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John calls on tourism industry to create brand for quality services


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By Charumini de Silva

Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga yesterday (9 April) said the growth of tourism industry depends on the quality of products and services, insisting it is imperative for Sri Lanka to create a brand for its quality services to demand a premium.

“If Sri Lanka is to attract the high-end market and optimise tourism revenue in keeping with the Government’s strategy, our products and services must be geared to cater to this segment. We have to create a name for ourselves, that Sri Lanka is a destination which offers quality services. We can then demand a premium for what is offered,” he said, handing over a total of 18 certificates to tourist-friendly eateries in Galle.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) commenced the fourth phase of the project ‘Certification Scheme for Tourist-Friendly Eating Places’ in Galle to encourage the upgrading of food safety, hygiene and service of eateries supplying food for foreign and local tourists.

“Having seen the successful launch of this campaign in Colombo and Kandy, I have requested SLTDA to expedite the expansion of this program to other tourist destinations such as Negombo and Ella. I am happy to see the eateries in Galle being recognised for their quality standards and hope this program will cover all major tourist areas in the island in the near future,” Amaratunga added.

The objectives of the project include: upgrading the basic standards (food safety, hygiene and service )of eateries in tourist zones; raising awareness regarding the necessity of providing standard food services in all eateries in the country and encouraging them to upgrade service standards; upgrading the standards of all eateries in the country on par with international standards; creating competition among similar eateries in selected areas; and encouraging eateries to upgrade and obtain ‘tourist-friendly’ certification.

Under the first phase of the project, 66 eateries in Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) area and second phase of the project, 18 eateries in Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) area received certifications.

SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayake said they intend to make the certification familiar to tourists as a pride mark and a safety mark.

“Right now we are not trying to boil the ocean. Once we certify you, based on all the good standards, people will automatically start looking to this certification logo or this pride mark as a safety mark, where they can indulge without fear,” he added. 

He said plans are underway to start promoting this branding, from the visa application procedure to the airport, until tourists become familiar with the ‘tourist-friendly’ logo.

“Once the safety logo is there with the tuk-tuks, eateries, home stays, travel guides, then others who don’t have the certification will apply for and comply with higher standards, as they would notice a difference in business because the tourists will be naturally attracted to the pride mark. There will be a demand for this safety mark,” Ratnayake said.

According to him, the SLTDA has trained around 300 tuk-tuks under the radar, and there is great demand from other tuk-tuks to join the program.

He pointed out that if Sri Lanka is to attract more tourists, it was of paramount importance to offer quality food, beverage and services to the travellers.

Starting in June 2017, SLTDA began inspection visits to eateries in Galle, where the inspection team consisted of SLTDA officials, independent inspection officers assigned by SLTDA, and officials of Galle Municipal Council (GMC). Eateries in key streets within GMC, which includes Pedlar Street, Leyn Baan Street and Light House Street, received ‘A’ and ‘B’ grade certificates.

SLTDA Director Standards and Quality Assurance Chandana Wijeratne highlighted that the internet has made it possible for tourists to access information within seconds on tourist-friendly eateries, and if such places are not up to the expected standard, they are not reluctant to share those information on various social media platforms.

“These negative feedbacks could damage the reputation of the destination and the tourism industry at large. Therefore, it is crucial that the industry provides quality food and services to tourists at all eateries in the Island,” he added.

He also noted that one of the key features of this project was to constantly follow up and ensure these eateries that have already received grades are maintaining the standards. “When we do re-inspections, if any eating place is not maintaining the required standards, either they will be downgraded or their grade will be cancelled.”

Another important factor is that SLTDA will constantly educate eateries which have not yet obtained the certification due to shortcomings, and once they rectify those shortcomings and fulfil requirements, they would also be eligible to apply for the certification. 

Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe

 


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