Sri Lanka celebrates World Tourism Day 2017

Thursday, 28 September 2017 00:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Minister says SL now in an advantageous position as a Vice President of the UNWTO, is now obliged to lead the way in sustainable tourism
  • SLTDA Chairman calls for support and commitment from all stakeholders to successfully execute Tourism Vision 2025, Strategic Plan 2020
  • Sri Lanka Tourism expects over 2.5 million arrivals this year


By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka Tourism yesterday celebrated World Tourism Day in Colombo focusing on the UNWTO’s theme for this year ‘Sustainable Tourism: A Tool for Development’.

Recognising the importance of this year’s theme, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) organised a two-day program at the Independence Square Arcade to draw public attention to outline the importance of sustaining the country’s tourism industry and to mark the global event.

Inaugurating the official celebrations, Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said with Sri Lanka recently becoming a Vice President of the UNWTO, it was now obligated to lead the way in this regard.

“Sri Lanka is now at an advantageous position thanks to its appointment at the UNWTO to share its vision for the sustainability of global tourism,” he said, adding that this year’s theme was of particular significance for all of us given the rapid growth of the country’s tourism industry.

Highlighting the importance of drawing up an agenda on the long-term sustainability of the industry, the Minister said: “To be more specific, we need to promote sustainable, responsible and universally accessible tourism by raising awareness over the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.”

While countries and regions with tourism-driven economies have become increasingly concerned with the environmental as well as socio-cultural problems associated with ad-hoc tourism, Amaratunga pointed out that there was now agreement on the need to promote sustainable tourism development to minimise the environmental impact and maximise socioeconomic benefits.

He believes that this would promote an industry that creates employment, promotes local culture and products, and nurtures sustainable production and consumption.

“This endeavour requires the support of all stakeholders, especially the private sector, where tourism has created opportunities for thousands of small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs),” he added.

Taking all this into consideration, the Minister said they are now preparing to launch Tourism Vision 2025 and Tourism Strategic Plan 2017-2020. “These plans envision doubling tourism revenue and employment by the year 2020, whilst ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry.”

The primary areas of focus according to the plan include world-class management of natural and cultural heritage sites, strong connectivity to and around the island, ensuring a safe and secure destination and promoting community participation, while protecting and conserving our natural resources.

“We are also committing ourselves through these documents to ensure that the benefits of tourism flow down to the communities. While Sri Lanka welcomes the big boys in the global industry, we are mindful that it should not be at the expense of the small man that lives off the industry,” he pointed out.

Amaratunga also conveyed his appreciation to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the great interest he has shown in developing the tourism industry. “He (Prime Minister) has set targets for the arrival numbers, revenue, employment generation and all the necessary tools to achieve these targets have been provided.”

SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayake said the theme this year was fitting for Sri Lanka as the country embarked on a journey to lead the tourism sector toward a sustainable and inclusive future.

He said it is estimated that this year more than 2.5 million people will leave their home countries and come to Sri Lanka to follow their dream of visiting an interesting and exciting destination.

Noting that the Government has embarked on a vision and plan, Ratnayake asserted that they were now in implementation mode to deliver better products, standards, services and ultimately, a better experience for visitors.

“We believe that with disciplined execution of this plan we can achieve the target of five million visitors and $ 7 billion revenue per year by 2020, and ensure a total of 600,000 jobs in the industry, an addition of 300,000. These visions and plans were developed not just by government agencies but with complete stakeholder involvement,” he explained.

However, to execute this plan he called for support and commitment from many people and institutions. “It’s a really large project and one that cuts across so many areas of responsibility. At least 20 different Government agencies will have to work collaboratively to deliver the plan. It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of patience and also a lot of fun.”

He also said that in order to ensure sustainable employment with higher skills and better salaries for people, leaders had requested them to bring back Sri Lankans working in other countries by paying them competitive salaries.

The celebrations included an essay competition in all three languages for schoolchildren and a photography competition. The winners were recognised with certificates and medals.

SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella said this year’s theme of World Tourism Day 2017 was very timely and opportune for a fast developing tourism destination like Sri Lanka.

He extended a special thanks to the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation for imparting the localised message of sustainable tourism through the Adaranneya Sri Lanka television program.

“Creating awareness through a visual program is important to influence new-age travellers and inculcate sustainable practices for all stakeholders of the industry,” Kiriella pointed out.