Marking yet another step towards boosting Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, the Marine National Park at Hikkaduwa was declared open for the local and foreign tourists on 29 June.
The opening was marked by a ceremonious event which was graced by Deputy Minister of Economic Development Luxshman Yapa Abeywardhana and Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife S.M. Chandrasena. Officials from Sri Lanka Tourism, Wildlife Department and the Urban Council of Hikkaduwa were also among the guests present at this evening.
Hikkaduwa Marine National Park covers an area of 101 hectares including a snorkelling and diving zone and also a bathing zone, catering to the diverse needs of both local and foreign adventure seekers. The marine park offers a diverse collection of sea creatures as well as beautiful fringing reefs of various corals.
“The beaches are the major tourist attraction in our country. We have to identify tourist hotspots and develop those areas to meet the expectations of the visitors. We are doing it now,” said Abeywardhana in his address.
The already existing Hikkaduwa National Park was remodelled under this ambitious plan, offering local and foreign tourists a chance to have a well organised and safe recreational experience at affordable prices. According to the newly-structured ticketing scheme, the entrance fee for a local tourist will be Rs. 5 and for a foreigner Rs. 30. A MoU has been signed by the Wildlife Department and the boat service providers of the area, assuring that more reliable and consistent prices would be charged from tourists rather than continuously fluctuating individual rates. Under the implemented price scheme, the price of a boat tour for a local tourist would be Rs. 750 and Rs. 1,750 for a foreigner. Scheduled boat tours assure that the service providers get equal opportunities to contribute to the accelerating industry.
The opening of the Hikkaduwa Marine National Park not only has developmental value, but also unique environmental value. The remodelling involves a conscious activism in terms of marine life and environment protection.
A coral regeneration plan is a vital part of the park’s vision of a healthy and sustainable tourism industry. A garbage management programme too has been initiated, parallel to the opening of the marine park. Under this initiative, a tractor was donated to the Municipal Council by the Ministry of Economic Development.
The Government’s plan to identify favourite tourist destinations and develop tourist zones would continue further with new vigour with the opening of the Hikkaduwa Marine National Park. The right initiative at the right moment would assure that Sri Lanka will soon be a leading tourism destination in the international arena.