Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLDTA) is rolling out provisional licensing to assist the Small and Medium sector in seeking COVID-19 health certification to host tourists in the future. Sri Lanka Tourism is extending its support to the SME sector, which is considered to be over 60% of the industry.
It is estimated that over 50,000 SME entities are involved in the tourism industry and contribute to the economy by providing employment and foreign exchange to the country as well as diverse experience to visitors.
Their main booking method being online travel agents such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Agoda etc., most SMEs are in the unregistered category. Due to many barriers to get themselves registered, most of these service providers were not able to receive any benefits from the relief packages announced by the Government.
Considering this gap, SLTDA has created a provisional licensing method to assist the SMEs enabling them to seek COVID-19 health certification to host tourists in the future. Most of the SME sector in the past were unable to register due to strenuous documentation requirements.
To assist this segment and to be able to obtain a provisional license, they would now need to submit an online application with limited documentation together with photos and a registration fee of Rs. 2,200. Currently, SLTDA is also developing a process to ease and relax some of the guidelines without compromising the quality.
“Without strengthening and supporting the SME sector in tourism we are unable to reach the target set by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said. “Tourism is undoubtedly one of the most affected industries in the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to help the industry, the Cabinet approved a series of relief measures for tourism service providers registered with Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority,” she stated.
“Unfortunately, since 60% of the tourist service providers in Sri Lanka belongs to the informal sector who haven’t registered with SLTDA, many have not been able to avail the relief measures which is brought to the authority’s notice,” Fernando said.
“After a series of consultations with the SME sector and to support them during this pandemic and in any future crisis, SLTDA encourages the SMEs in the tourism sector to register with us. To help the SME sector, we have decided to relax our registration criteria. They can initially opt for a provisional license for 6 months and they could register with us fully later,” SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe added.
The payment of Tourism Development Levy (TDL) by online travel agents has been raised as a concern and authorities are studying the matter. At the moment, most of the foreign tour operators do not pay TDL but the local travel agents pay TDL from their net income. Currently, 80% of TDL is received from the Accommodations sector.