The Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) yesterday welcomed the reappointment of John Amaratunga as the new Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Affairs and endorses combining wildlife with tourism as a timely initiative for the industry.
THASL President Sanath Ukwatte
“Today, safari parks are most sought-after places visited by tourists and over-visitation of parks is a challenge for the Industry. We commend this asa timely and appropriate step,” THASL President Sanath Ukwatte said in a statement.
THASL said it looked forward to working with the newly-appointed Cabinet of Ministers to achieve continued and sustainable economic growth and development of the tourism industry. THASL added that particularly the achievement of Export Status for Tourism was a matter that as an industry association it continued to strongly lobby for.
Tourism is at present the second highest net foreign exchange earner for the country and provides employment for over 350,000 people, both direct and indirectly.
THASL said the industry hoped that the Government would take appropriate action to boost the industry by granting Export Status as a matter of urgency to restore confidence among a large number of investors who have held back due to the recent political turmoil.
The country now has over 32,000 star-class hotel beds and is expected to grow by a further 6,500 rooms with a total investment of $ 12 billion expected by 2020.
This is by far the highest investment any single sector has made in the country. Net earnings have exceeded the $ 3.5 billion mark already this year.
With the planned global market campaign to be launched in March next year, together with worldwide publicity received due to the Lonely Planet endorsement of Sri Lanka as a top destination to visit in 2019, Sri Lanka Tourism is poised to have a successful year in 2019.
“Our biggest challenge is to have smooth arrival and departure facilities and services at the main airport for the significantly increased arrivals. We hope the relevant authorities take urgent action to improve these services,” THASL asserted.
THASL said that it, together with the entire industry,had developed a close working relationship with the ministry over the past threeand a half years and applauded Minister Amaratunga for all the support and encouragement he had offered.
“He worked tirelessly for the betterment of the industry and stood up for the industry at all times. We have every confidence that he will be equally enthusiastic in working with us in the interest of our industry.”
THASL congratulated all new Ministers and Deputy Ministers andsaid it looked forward to developing a close working relationship with the Government to strengthen and grow whilst ensuring its benefits of increased employment and foreign exchange earnings and its contribution to GOP spread throughout the country.