Milking tourism!

Saturday, 14 May 2011 00:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cheranka Mendis

Changes at select state entities seem too frequent with the Government appointing former MILCO Director Irshad Rumy Jauffer as the Managing Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB).

The new appointment was by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa. It couldn’t be confirmed what was Jauffer’s previous position. He was the Working Director at MILCO a few years ago.

The MD position at SLTPB was previously overseen in an acting capacity by industry professional Malraj Kirella. The latter now moves back to his substantive post of Director of Research and International Relations at SLTPB. Malraj assumed Acting MD in September last year after in another shocking move when industry professional Duleep Mudadeniya was removed to revert back to his substantive post Head of Quality Assurance, Standards, Investment and Legal at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

Kiriella, has been in the travel and tourism trade for over 25 years and had served as Director – Marketing, Research and International Affairs (2007), Director – Corporate Services (2007), Director – Marketing (2004-2006) and Director – Research and International Affairs (1999-2004) of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. He has also worked at SriLankan Airlines prior to joining SLTB in 1999.

The latest change comes midst Sri Lanka Tourism enjoying persistent record arrivals.

April saw 66% increase in arrivals to 63,835 bringing the first four months haul to 278,959, up 40% over the corresponding period of last year.

Though arrivals are growing thanks to the end of the war the country’s Tourism administration is facing various hiccups. The change of persons in the MD post, twice in seven months as well as alleged strained relationship between Tourism Board Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Economic Development Ministry Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera are well discussed within leisure industry circles.

Given the latter’s primary focus being Secretary to Ministry of Finance and Planning, the current Tourism administration as well as industry have been of the view that having a permanent Tourism Secretary was the best course.

However some others remain happy with Jayasundera’s role given the fact he is also the Treasury Boss.

Midst frustration and concern within the industry over the slow progress in new developments, the Ministry of Economic Development early this week revealed that authority has received 99 hotel projects with an investment outlay of USD 784.75 within the first four months of the year for consideration. Of this amount 12 projects have been given the go ahead sign. From the 99 project applications that came in, inspections have been carried out on 78 projects and 12 have been granted approval.

“The current hotel projects in the pipeline should add 5938 rooms to the industry infrastructure and if given approval soon is ready to start construction this year,” Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana said during the briefing.