Creating tourism dreams

Thursday, 12 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

TOURISM is readying to give Sri Lanka a massive development boom. However, handling this boon will require commitment and honesty from the stakeholders so that profits filter to grass root level and the environment is protected.

Data released by the Ministry of Economic Development yesterday showed that the authority has received 99 hotel projects within the first four months of the year for consideration, out of which 12 projects have been given the go ahead sign while four have been rejected.

The current hotel projects in the pipeline should add 5,938 rooms to the industry infrastructure and, if given approval soon, are ready to start construction this year.

This is good news for an industry that has been awaiting the promised boom since the end of the war almost two years ago. Nonetheless, there was much confidence in the industry, which was reciprocated by international tour operators and hoteliers to convert Sri Lanka into a premier destination.

Arrival performance in the first quarter of this year saw the industry setting new records with more than 250,000 arrivals, the first-ever for the country.  Already flying high if the country could achieve an average monthly growth of 26%, it would achieve more than 800,000 tourists.

From the 99 project applications that came in, inspections have been carried out on 78 projects and 12 have been granted approval. Four have been rejected so far. The four rejected projects come to a total value of US$ 113.31 million. As such the Western Province will have 33 hotel projects, Southern Province 23, Northern Province four and Eastern Province 22. The Central Province will have six projects, Uva Province two, North Central Province one and North Western Province eight. Sri Lanka, which has been a hot favourite among international hospitality tycoons, has attracted investments worth of US$ 558 million as well so far.

Leading the list is the much-anticipated Hong Kong-based Shangri-La with an investment of US$ 390 million, two Indian companies with investments of US$ 20 and 25 million, two other Hong Kong companies with US$ 50 million and USD 35 million, two Thai groups with investments of US$ 20 and 10 million, a Maldivian company with US$ 5 million and a Singaporean company with US$ 3 million. It is expected that work on the internationally-invested hotels will be completed within three years.

It is interesting that out of the 99 projects only 12 have been given the go ahead so far. While it is important for the Government to be cautious about opening up the country to new investments, it must also not be choked by red tape as that could lead to more corruption. A smooth and transparent process is necessary to ensure that the investors and the country get the best possible deal.

Moreover, supplying infrastructure, trained human resource and marketing, right policy and regulation framework as well as a host of other factors need to come together to convert Sri Lanka into a consummate tourism hub. These are aspects that the Government and industry stakeholders will have to fine-tune rapidly if they are to make maximum use of this opportunity.