By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s domestic tourism industry which often goes unaccounted for is estimated to be a 3.5 million to 4 million industry, a number that exceeds the expected inbound arrivals by 2015.
Speaking at the International Forum on Community Based Sustainable Tourism on Thursday, Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Dr. Nalaka Godahewa stated that even though the inbound tourism of the country is likely to range between 750,000 to 800,000 arrivals by end 2011, the domestic tourism number is far ahead and has become a huge component of the industry. “Domestic tourism which we have never actually concentrated on and calculated is approximately 3.5 million to 4 million,” Godahewa said.
Under the leadership of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka Tourism is now ready to focus its full attention on developing this segment of the industry, he asserted. “At the end of the day the whole purpose of tourism development, is to see how tourism can contribute towards the economic development of the country. It is about how tourism can help and improve the living standards of people and how wealth can be redistributed. In that sense we cannot neglect domestic and community tourism and the opportunities that come along with it.”
On the subject of community based tourism, Godahewa said that the particular segment can play a very important role in facilitating inbound tourism as well as domestic tourism. He noted that community based tourism is an area in which the country can offer unique products of the country to the outside world while at the same time encourage participation in tourism activities and generate income.
Sri Lanka Tourism’s ultimate goal is to explore the issues and opportunities in the area of study and formulate a master plan for community based tourism. This would fall directly under the domestic tourism component of the country’s five point tourism strategic development plan that was launched last month. “This would help us drive community tourism during the next five years. We want to make it become an important contributor to the overall economic management of the country.”
The forum, organised to coincide with the theme for the month of October according to ‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ which is ‘community and education’ has had a good demand from stakeholders of the industry. Godahewa stated that a number of participants had to be turned down as well. Conducted targeting to address the questions of what opportunities are available and what the country can do to develop the sector, the forum was addressed by Professor of Tokyo Metropolitan University Yoshiaki Hompo and Vice Chancellor of Ritsumeikan Trust of Japan Monte Cassim, and Head of Standards, Quality Assurance and Special Projects Sri Lanka Tourism Dileep Mudadeniya.
“This is a part of a programme under the community based tourism development programme which was started by the Ministry almost three years ago with the assistance of a Japanese institute.” During the last three years Sri Lanka Tourism has conducted a series of work under the programme covering infrastructure development, human resource development, improvement of lesser known attractions etc.
As part of the programme Sri Lanka is now focusing on community based tourism and domestic tourism. “Usually when you talk about tourism you only talk about inbound tourism. Inbound tourism this year will reach 750,000- 800,000.
What people tend to forget is that there is a huge component of tourism bigger than inbound tourism within the country,” he said.