Plans are underway to
attract more tourists into the country with the ending of three
decade war. Already, Sri Lanka Tourism has launched a new
promotional campaign with the new destination tagline 'Small
Miracle" to capture the international markets.
Of course it is time we come out of the traditional concepts
of tourism viz. our golden beaches, ruined cities and salubrious
hill country. Tourism all over the world has moved a long way
into wider reaches. For instance, there is now natural animal
parks where wildlife roam in their familiar habitats which is a
major tourist draw in many countries.
For Sri Lanka, with its abundance of fauna and jungle
landscape this offers an attractive prospect which our tourism
officials should consider exploiting if we are to bring in
Even the Maldives one of the most popular tourist
destinations in the world, has moved beyond its beaches to
promote new concepts to attract more tourists. Incidentally, a
large bulk of tourists who used to visit Sri Lanka shifted base
to Maldives during the war years. We should now try to get them
back adopting a new sales pitch, with the freeing of the country
True, the unsettled conditions in the country saw a drastic
drop in our tourist arrivals. The various Travel Advisories
issued by the Western Governments too did not help. Tourism was
among the main sectors that took a beating during the three
decade long conflict.
Now with the return to normality no time should be lost in
getting the tourist industry back on track. In fact, the return
to peace could well herald a steady influx of tourists as in the
not too distant past when the country's major hotels and resorts
enjoyed a booming trade.
But for this to take place, there needs to be a concerted
campaign abroad. Mere changing of brand names alone would not
suffice. It should be a combined effort of the Tourist Board,
industry players such as the travel agents, hoteliers and not
least of all our envoys overseas. An appropriate theme line
should be crafted out to reflect the new independence gained by
the country after its liberation from terrorism.
Such a campaign theme no doubt would interest the holiday
maker who will be keen to experience the novelty. More than
anything they would be eager to enter a country that has just
regained its independence which itself offers unending prospects
for the industry.
We say this because the newly liberated North and East offers
a vast tourism potential which had been lying dormant all these
years. No time should be lost in bringing together all these
facets to offer a most attractive package to the tourists.
Therefore, immediate steps should be taken to revive the
tourism sector and make it a prominent feature in the
Government's Northern Spring Program envisaging the rebuilding
and reconstruction of all devastated tourism infrastructure. A
separate blue print should be drawn up for the North which in
the pre-war years was a major tourist attraction with its
network of lagoons, sandy beaches and relics of the Dutch and
Tourists would also be keen to visit vital landmarks in the
country's war. With its abundant waterways, canals and placid
waters, the region could also be developed into a haven for
aquatic sports and advertised as a popular destination for
exotic sea food. All this, needless to say would open up
unending avenues for employment in the North and East which
would be a god-sent opportunity to this long impoverished
The Tourism Ministry would do well to invest in setting up
hotel schools and similar training centres in that part of the
country to enable youth to assimilate into the vocation. With
the vast potential in the North for Tourism, steps should be
taken to promote the region with extra vigour.
The Government should also think of giving a value added
product to the new generation of tourists. For too long have
been catering to the economy tourist. As mentioned, new ideas
should be infused into the current tourism set up so as to make
tourism a major money spinner once more. Concepts such as eco
tourism should be introduced and expanded to attract the high
paying sophisticated traveller.
Another aspect the planners should factor in is domestic
tourism. Today there is a vast scope and potential in this area
which sadly the authorities have been neglecting while paying
attention to only the foreign tourist. It should not be
forgotten that it is this segment that kept the cash strapped
industry afloat during the lean times. They therefore deserve
special attention. More features of amusement and activity
should be introduced to swell the ranks of domestic tourists.
Today, most local tourists cannot afford the packages offered
by resort hotels for family outings. Also there had been reports
in the media of how certain hotels mete out shabby treatment to
local tourists excluding them from certain domains, practising a
kind of apartheid.
Hopefully, with the anticipated heavy influx of foreign
tourists in the coming days, their local counterparts would not
be cold shouldered once again.
With the dawn of peace the many avenues that were shut out
due to the years of strife are gradually unlocking themselves.
Tourism is one such sector that is set to take off after years
It is hoped that the relevant authorities would take maximum
advantage of the unfolding opportunities and make tourism the
country's main money spinner as it was not so long ago.