President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this week instructed top officials to draw up a new target-oriented strategy to transform tourism into a $ 10 billion industry by 2025.
He made these remarks at a discussion with ministers Prasanna Ranatunga, Arundika Fernando, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Secretary S.M. Mohammed, State Ministry of Tourism Promotion Secretary S.S.S. Fernando and several other senior officials, held at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday.
“We require a skilled team with expertise and dedication. Every step should generate immediate results. For my part, I do not hesitate to take decisions for the benefit of the country. I expect that the officials will commit themselves to passing the benefits of such decisions to the public. If there is a target-based plan, every challenge can be achieved,” he said.
During the meeting, key issues that hinder the country in achieving its full potential were identified and measures to address and promote the sector were broadly discussed.
The President emphasised the necessity to upgrade the quality of facilities provided to tourists and to streamline amenities at airports in the immediate future.
It was also noted that shopping malls and other facilities within the Colombo city limits should be equipped with requirements sought after by tourists.
President Rajapaksa stressed the need for a systematic mechanism coupled with a number of calendar activities that were necessary to attract tourists to the country.
He also outlined that it was critical to develop new tourist attractions and create an effective promotional mechanism to put Sri Lanka back on the global map as a top travel destination within the next five years.
The President described the importance of effective coordination and joint collaboration between ministries and other entities that come under the purview of Sri Lanka Tourism.
Attention was also drawn to amending rules and regulations in order to promote the sector and remove unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and procedures that have delayed many projects over the past decade.
Furthermore, President Rajapaksa pointed out the need to capitalise on unique selling propositions such as indigenous Ayurvedic treatments, which have already become highly popular among tourists around the world.
In addition, he said priority should be given to promoting unique adventure tourism and sports tourism activities, which bring in a lot of foreign exchange and visitors.
President Rajapaksa stressed that the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) would fast-track the implementation of promotional activities with the participation of Sri Lankan foreign missions overseas to build Sri Lanka’s image and promote it as a top tourist destination.
The need to upgrade the standards of the aviation sector, especially by recommencing direct flights connecting Sri Lanka and Europe, was highlighted, with the reasoning behind it being that it would help support tourist arrivals as well.
The provision of training facilities to undergraduates at hotel schools, in order to produce qualified and competent hotel managers to address the skills shortage in the industry, was also discussed.
During the discussion, a decision was also made to reactivate the Tourism Police Unit, to be headed by a senior DIG, in the immediate future.