Lakshman Yapa upbeat on East Coast’s tourism prospects

Friday, 21 December 2012 00:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena recently spoke on the tourism industry and future prospects at the KPF at Chaaya Blu, Trincomalee.

It was the third session of the Key Persons forum series and apart from Deputy Minister Abeywardana, Minister of agriculture, animal production, rural industries and tourism of the Eastern Provincial Council Hafiz Nazeer Ahamed, also took part at the forum which was themed as ‘Tourism industry in Sri Lanka growth, strategies and future prospects’.

The forum was organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) and Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Trincomalee District. The Asia Foundation, under its local economic governance program, which is funded by the Australian International Agency for Development (AusAID) is supporting to bring KPF in to the regions.

The forum was attended by more than 100 participants, compromising hoteliers, travel agents, service providers, small scale suppliers attached to the tourism industry and Governmental representatives.

FCCISL President Kumar Mallimaratch delivered the welcome speech and NPD Chief Executive Officer Nalin Attygalle took part as the moderator of the forum. Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Trincomalee District President V. Kalaichelvan, Asia Foundation Senior Technical Advisor Chulanthe Jayasuriya, were among the other VIPs present at the forum.

Speaking at the forum, the Minister said that tourism in Pasikuda area, ceased with the violence of the terrorists and now being revived with the facilities, provided by the Government for investors.

According to the Minister, numbers of projects have been launched by the Tourism Development Authority in the Pasikuda area, and most of them are at operational level now. Construction of two hotels has already been completed and many more are to be operational by beginning of the next year.

It is expected to complete the number of hotel rooms by end of 2013. He also mentioned that Trincomalee is not exposed to the development as Pasikuda.

Trincomalee has one of the finest natural deep-water harbours in the world, and is home to fine beaches of Nilaveli, Uppaveli and off-shore Pigeon Island.  Also Trincomalee is among the most ethnic melting city in Sri Lanka.

The population is split almost equally between the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Downtown Trincomalee occupies a peninsula, which extends between two natural harbours. The massive Kottiyar Bay is one of the world’s best deep-water ports, and has made the city an important centre of commerce.

Just north of downtown, the beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli are the tourist hotspot. Trincomalee starts emerging as one of the best tourist destinations in the country. The Minister said the set Tourism strategy which was launched in 2011, targeting all aspects of tourism sector development up to 2016.

The Government is making a concerted effort together with the industry towards sustaining the boom in the tourism industry. Under this, the home stay program launched to provide more interactive facilities for tourists, added 143 units in 2011, and expects to increase the number of units to 500, by 2012 including hotels, boutique hotels, boutique villas, home stay units, guest houses and heritage homes.

He also said that Vakarei and Pulmudai are proposed to develop. It is affirmed that the segment of Whale Watching is among the top growing. According to the Minister, the budget has been continued to allocate from the 2013 budget, also in order to develop the intra road network.

He also spoke on the agreement signed to invest US$ four billion, to build a heavy industries complex around the Trincomalee Port. The first phase of the project which includes the development of the deep water jetty and the stockpiling facility is valued at US$ 700 million.  

The project is estimated to generate 3,500 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs. The Minister stated that at least 60% of the workforce needs be pumped from the district itself, by establishing local vocational training centres.

Minister Hafiz Nazeer Ahamed, speaking at the forum said the Eastern Provincial Council is geared to promote and develop efficient tourist services within the province. He also said that it is their mandate to encourage the stakeholders, of the tourism industry to promote package tours to increase tourist arrivals and encourage the investors of both local and foreign to invest in tourism development projects in the province.

Speaking about the challenges the Minister paid his concern on solid waste management and insufficient water supply for hotel operations. He also emphasised on the importance of increasing the number of skilled staff, increasing connectivity and facility such as air transport and observation saloons in railways and facilitating more hotels schools.

Among the questions raised by the audience, were lacks of destination marketing in particularly in Trincomalee, lack of skilled staff and training providers available in the industry, no railway connectivity, the land ownership issues, wastage management. Concluding the forum the Minister concurred to allocate sufficient of money to develop the connectivity and establish more training schools for the province.