By Sunimalee Dias
Government moves to bring back the former Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) will result in the three-year-old Tourism Authority, once lauded by the private sector, being relinquished.
In line with the President’s initiative to amalgamate the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), which was highlighted during the presentation of the budget in Parliament, it is expected to be established within three months.
During the drawing-up of the development authority, the private sector had reportedly been eager to establish this venture back in 2007 as it resulted in an effective public-private partnership.
Currently the Tourism Development Levy or TDL is contributing 70% out of the cess fund towards the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) while 14% is being given to the SLTDA, 12% for the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) and the balance 4% for the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM).
An industry official observed that the Government was likely to amend the existing Act in a bid to reallocate the money already provided to the separate institutions coming under the purview of the SLTDA.
The tourism industry in 2007 hailed the “long delayed implementation” of the Tourist Act No. 38 of 2005 as reportedly a “most timely piece of legislation which could foster public-private sector cooperation and collaboration in the industry.”
The 2005 Act, which came into operation from 1 October 2007, provided for the establishment of the SLTDA, SLTPB and the SLITHM in an effort to rejuvenate the country’s tourism industry that was then witnessing lean times in the wake of an unstable security climate.
However, today, with the industry witnessing a remarkable difference post war, the high tourist enthusiasm on visiting the once prohibited land and the start of December heralding good times, arrivals crossed the half a million mark for the first time.
According to the Act, these four institutions operate as independent entities with its own boards of directors and directors general/managing directors/chief executive officers. Indirect linkages between the four organisations were to be established.
It is also perceived that each of entities were to have its own operational models such as administrative and financial procedures. Funding resources for all four entities were to be carried out through the Tourism Development Fund that was established under the provisions of the act.
Impressive plans were in place for the next few years since the authority was established. The SLTPB’s main objectives were to carry out marketing and promoting the country directly or indirectly as a tourist and travel destination of quality in accordance with the development plan in consultation with the authority.
In addition, they were to promote the country as a gateway to the South Asian Regions and also make Sri Lankan known as a centre of excellence in tourism management and development in the region.
With regard to branding Sri Lanka, efforts were made to rebrand the destination in order to build a strong and dynamic brand for the country. This was developed in consultation with all stakeholders who reviewed the branding position on a 360 degree basis, to create a single core idea that could change people’s perception of the country.
The Government is aiming at attracting up market tourists to increase the average expenditure per tourist to US$ 155 within three years. According to statistical reports, the current average spending of a tourist is US$ 84. Notably, 12.5% of business travellers are considered as group with the highest buying power.