Tourism Minister moots more budget airlines to uplift tourism

Monday, 30 October 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The winners of ‘Rising Star Awards 2017’ posing for a group photograph with Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister John Amaratunga, Minister Daya Gamage and THASL President Sanath Ukwatte

  • 2.2 m tourist arrival last year
  •  Revenue of $ 3.5 m generated

By Hiruni Dabarera

More budget airlines should be welcomed into Sri Lanka if the country is to increase tourist arrivals, Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said recently.

Addressing the ‘Rising Star Awards’ organised by The Hotel Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) last week, the Minister emphasised on how there needs to be a remission in airport facility charges, explaining how compared to the rest of the world, when it comes to landing or clearing, local charges are high. 

In India or Malaysia the budget market is also catered to whereas in Sri Lanka this market needs more government backing, he noted.

“Despite the tourism sector enjoying revenue of $ 3.5 m in the previous year, only half of this income is earned by hoteliers; the rest is used to settle loans,” the Minister revealed. 

Other concerns of hoteliers are complaints pertaining to rates of licenses and the times of operation of liquor licenses. 

The Minister stressed on the importance of adapting and meeting the needs of different types of tourism like sports or health. 

The Rising Star Awards were held for the first time this year in a bid to uplift and commend hotel staff. It was done to promote the tourism, acknowledging the importance of high quality staff to ensure good standards in hotel management.

Competitors were pitted against each other under nine specific categories of Concierge, Receptionist, Public Area, Attendant, Room Attendant, Steward, Kitchen Steward, Bartender, Pool Attendant and Telephone Operator. 46 finalists were chosen after three months of rigorous evaluation conducted under a panel of reputed judges comprising Rosy Senanayake, Anton Godfrey, Otara Gunawardene and Paddy Withana. The ages of winners were between that of 18-27, purely for the purpose of encouraging young blood within the hotel industry. 

THASL is the premier hotel industry body within the country and it has membership of over 200 hotels and resorts island wide. 

Sri Lanka will be experiencing an influx of tourists within the next few years owing to the considerable increase of new hotels opening island wide. Hence, skilled labour within this industry is essential. 

Organisers believe efforts like this will highlight the need of ensuring quality labour within an industry which is of crucial importance to the country’s economic progress. Moreover, it will attract new recruits.

-Pix by Shehan Gunasekara