The Sri Lanka-Poland Business Council will conduct a seminar on Public Private Partnerships in Tourism – on 2 June.
Kumara Semage, President of the Sri Lanka-Poland Business Council (SLPoBC) referred to the event, which is being conducted in association with the Thought Leadership Forum, as an extremely timely and relevant interactive session, in today’s context, in Sri Lanka.
He said he was pleased that the suggestion to have the event as a catalyst to tourism sector policy dialogue and implementation, and as a fundraiser for the SLPoBC, came from the Council’s Founder President Ranel Wijesinha.
Wijesinha, presently an honorary member of the Council, as the Founder of the Thought Leadership Forum (now an incorporated entity) was contributing the time necessary to conceptualise the seminar, structure content and organise speakers, as well as to chair the sessions, on a gratis basis, in keeping with the Thought Leadership Forum’s philosophy of enhancing awareness to strengthen policy dialogue and implementation.
Wijesinha said that while the concept of Public-Private Partnerships is not new, “it is also a misunderstood or misinterpreted concept, but more on that later. There were many reasons why a business council connected with Poland was conducting this event and in the tourism sector. I had the pleasure of fielding a mission to Poland many years ago, as President of the SLPoBC. Once we completed our business meetings and established links with the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce, we visited the Sejm — the Polish Parliament and then the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“The latter was not my kind of tourism — to be traumatised by history. I wanted to see something about the new openness of this former closed and insular, post soviet nation, which inspired me and generated some creative thoughts. I was happy we visited Wieliczka, the world’s oldest rock salt mine.
The mine reaches down to a depth of 327 meters and is over 300 km long. The Wieliczka Salt Mine features a 3.5 km tourist route.”
The Tourist Route is a public-private partnership where the Government which owns the mine leases the tourist route to the private sector and shares the tourism revenues. The tourist route includes statues of historic and mythic figures, all sculpted by former miners out of the rock salt. Even the crystals in the chandeliers are made from salt.
Within the mines there are beautifully carved chambers, chapels, an underground lake and exhibits of the history of salt mining. The mine is referred to, justifiably, as ‘the underground salt cathedral of Poland.’ The salt mine has a beautiful hall and a magnificent chapel for wedding ceremonies and New Year ’s Eve parties.
Wijesinha went on to articulate his vision: “There are many examples of PPPs in tourism throughout the world. I would like to see potential PPPs in tourism in Sri Lanka, showcased, not only to generate greater tourism proceeds, but also to generate maintenance revenue to protect, maintain and sustain the attractive assets of tourism potential. We need to enhance awareness, on how we can balance entrepreneurship and profit with the need to sustain the environment as well as how we can respond to the challenge of protecting our heritage and culture while yet showcasing it to the world. That should be our collective end game.”