Handicrafts industry can boom with tourism

Friday, 29 August 2014 01:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Annual National Handicraft Festival ‘Shilpa 2014’ kicks off in Colombo
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam The local handicraft artisans will see greater earning prospects if it increases emphasis on targeting the fast-growing tourism sector as its main segment, the National Craft Council (NCC) Chief said yesterday. With tourism currently being the third biggest revenue contributor to the local handicraft market, after exports and local purchases, NCC Chairman Buddhi Keerthisena said much has to be done to make the most of this promising sector. “Tourism is the next big market for us; it has immense scope for the handicraft market. For that we have to further develop the market for gift items and souvenirs. However, we need to ensure that our craft items continue to have the Sri Lankan identity and cultural touch. That is imperative. Though there is also a growing demand for contemporary and modern craft items, we need to produce them with the Lankan flavour,” Keerthisena told the Daily FT on the sidelines of the annual National Handicraft Festival ‘Shilpa 2014’, a four day exhibition that kicked off yesterday. The event that will go on till the 31 August was inaugurated by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa. While revenue to the sector through tourism increased by 20% in 2013, Keerthisena expressed confidence of the earnings increasing by 30%, from the previous year, at the end of this year. Pointing out the challenges faced in developing the sector which is a key income generator for large segment for the rural population, he noted three key areas – the development of new designs, access to raw materials and availability of finances. Noting that the Government has expressed keenness on further supporting and developing the sector, measures have been taken to ensure the required raw materials are grown within the country itself. He added that the sector has been given the necessary, tools, equipment and training to boost efficiency and productivity. To encourage the trade, the NCC has been organising the Shilpa National Exhibition and Award Ceremony for the handicraft and small industrialists on an annual basis. This year the exhibition is featuring 60 new artisans who have been trained at the programs conducted by the NCC around the country. – Pix by Shehan Gunasekara