In a new phase of tourism development where offshore island resorts are being established, another of the 14 islands on the north-western coast of Kalpitiya is being leased out next week. This along with another island leased earlier this year are both islands from the Kalpitiya islands’ development plan which would add 350 rooms to Sri Lanka’s tourism room strength, a top government official said this week.
“Of the 14 islands we will be developing another six islands in the near future. A key feature in this project is that we have integrated the local people of the area in the development and will not be moving them. On the contrary we intend to give them training and secure employment within the industry to help them grow along with regional aspirations. At present projections these resorts should be ready by 2012,” S. Kalaiselvam, Director-General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), told the Business Times.
Commenting further on other projects in the pipeline, he said; “Pasekudah will also be developed on the East coast. Where we had only three hotels we have now planned 13 new projects. On completion this will add another 1000 rooms to the pool. Of the investors six parties have already started construction.”
Further new development in the East will include Kuchchaveli where a 500-acre block of land is to be offered for development. It is now in the process of being declared a tourism promotion zone with the intention to monitor all development activities there. The process of actively seeking other properties for development is also underway island wide, he added.
“With the increase in tourism we are looking towards the SMEs for active participation. Here they are encouraged to register ‘home stay’ facilities with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). Any unit meeting the requirements may register under this scheme. As a large number of rooms are required now in the North with the festivals and both the tourists and the Diaspora arriving, this is a pressing requirement. As of now 300 parties have registered. Their details are displayed on the SLTDA website and could be booked on line direct,” he said.
Referring to the incentives on offer to the tourism industry investor, Mr Kalaiselvam said; “The most attractive incentive is land to an investor. Any investor who meets the criteria will be eligible for this. In addition various duty free concessions and tax holidays are also available. The biggest incentive for the industry is the tourist and with the end of the war we have been able to attract them here in numbers.”
He expects tourism numbers to exceed 600,000 this year. “We have already passed the 340,000 mark in the first seven months of this year. The industry is so busy now that when we call a meeting with the guides no one attends as they are all on tour.”