Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday lauded Sri Lanka being named as the top destination to visit in 2019 in the Lonely Planet ‘Best in Travel’ publication, while pledging continued support to develop the tourism industry.
Issuing a statement yesterday, Wickremesinghe said the award of the number one destination reflected the Government’s conducive policies adopted from 2015 to develop the sector and industry’s constant efforts over the years.
“The Lonely Planet has named Sri Lanka as the top destination for 2019. I must first and foremost express our satisfaction and our delight in being so-named. This is a result of a policy we have followed from 2015, of giving prominence to tourism, of developing tourism, that today we have come into this category of being the top tourist destination.”
However, Premier Wickremesinghe pointed out that Sri Lanka could not be complacent and should strive to overcome the challenges to become the top foreign exchange earner.
“We have to maintain this, we cannot be satisfied with one destination award; it is only a start. We have to look at the shortcomings in our tourist system – there are many – and we have to overcome them. We have to ensure that we plan for the future; that we cater to backpackers as well as high-spending tourists,” he said.
According to him, what matters to Sri Lanka first and foremost was high income from tourists and not merely the numbers. “Today we are a destination for people from Japan, China and India and into Europe. We have to increase the numbers coming into the country. We have to safeguard our historical monuments, we must safeguard our natural wildlife, and we have to add more attractions. Tourism today concerns a large number of people, not merely large hoteliers but all those who have homestay accommodations, small shops and small restaurants. We should widen and increase the numbers participating and benefitting in tourism.”
The Prime Minister commended all those who were responsible for Sri Lanka being named a top destination. “Minister John Amaratunga and his staff, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, members of the Tourism Task Force, and Advisory Committee, who gave us their valuable service – all the people who are connected to and involved in the hospitality and tourism industry. Finally I must also thank the people of Sri Lanka, for the friendly demeanour they have shown to all tourists — that’s a part of our nature and part of our heritage,” he added.
“Let us make this award, for us, a starting point to go to a higher level of tourism. We are restructuring ourselves to be an export economy, and in the export economy, tourism has received a principal place since it can be one of the fastest foreign exchange earners. Let us make it the starting point to double the revenue that we have from tourism,” Wickremesinghe said.