The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management which opened a training facility in Jaffna recently completed its third Hospitality Apprenticeship Training Program by awarding certificates to 100 students who had successfully completed the programs.
The certificate awarding ceremony took place on 2 March at the University of Jaffna with the participation of Chief Guest Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga and Guest of Honour Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
Among the other dignitaries present at the ceremony were SLITHM Chairman Sunil Dissanayake, Chief Priest of the Naga Vihara, Bishop of Jaffna, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Management of the University of Jaffna and Northern Province Hoteliers Association President S. Kaleiselvan.
Speaking during the event SLITHM Director General Buddika Hewawasam said that the existing facility in Jaffna was currently being renovated to improve capacity and facilitate the conducting of all basic level courses. So far 110 individuals have received training and 80 of them have already secured employment in the peninsula. He said that the University of Jaffna was in the process of setting up a faculty for tourism studies and there was potential for collaboration between the two entities.
Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Management Prof. T. Velampy noted that tourism was a key pillar of the national economy and this was more pronounced in the north. He said that the proposed faculty for tourism studies was currently awaiting approval from the University Grants Commission. He thanked Minister John Amaratunga for the new opportunities that were being provided and the removal of barriers for training.
The Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna said that he was pleased to witness the central and provincial governments working together for the development of tourism training programmes. He said that the time was right to commence graduate and post graduate programmes in tourism considering the emergence of tourism as a key driver of the economy. He lamented that despite millions of rupees being invested by entrepreneurs on new hotels and restaurants, there was very little private sector investment on training and skills development.
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran described Minister Amaratunga as his contemporary at Law College and long-time friend. He called on the Minister to involve the provincial council in all tourism development activities carried out in the peninsula. He requested the Minister to also involve the local community in the planned tourism development projects. He said many of the youth in the north had not completed a formal school education and thereby lacked the required qualifications to enrol for various courses. He called on SLITHM to formulate courses for these individuals as well so that they could be productively engaged in the tourism industry.
The Chief Minister said that he did not wish to see big hotels or skyscrapers coming up in Jaffna but rather preferred to promote home stays and smaller establishments as they were better geared to offer an authentic experience of the region and its culture. He added that in keeping with this concept, the provincial council would be focusing on developing eco-tourism, religious and cultural tourism, history and archaeological tourism and also nature based and indigenous tourism in the northern region.
Minister Amaratunga assured the Chief Minister that the Ministry would collaborate with the provincial administration in carrying out development activities in the region. He said the north was a gold mine from a tourism perspective and called on the diaspora community to invest in tourism development. He pointed out that it was an obligation on the part of the diaspora community to invest and provide employment opportunities for youth in the region.
The Minister called on the youth not to miss out on the training opportunities offered by SLITHM at their doorstep as it could well be their passport to a successful hospitality career not only in Sri Lanka but anywhere in the world, as the SLITHM certificate was globally recognised. He said a permanent hotel school building was a necessity for the region and plans were being finalised to construct a new state-of-the-art building in the premises of the Jaffna University which had been offered to SLITHM for the purpose.
The Minister expressed disappointment that the majority of the hotels, restaurants and other tourism service providers in the peninsula belonged to the informal sector as they were not registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. He requested the President of the Northern Province Hoteliers Association who was present at the ceremony to facilitate the registration of hotels in the region in order to standardise service standards.
Meanwhile SLITHM Chairman Dissanayake promised to introducing more ‘value adding’ initiatives for students in Jaffna as a contribution to the Government’s national unity and reconciliation process, details of which he said were being finalised.
SLITHM Jaffna commenced operations in November 2017 with the one-month apprenticeship course. So far three batches consisting of 100 students have completed the course. It is noteworthy that all students from the first and second batches have secured employment while all those in the third batch will be provided immediate employment by member hotels of the Northern Hoteliers Association.