(by Charumini de Silva) — The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has been very excited during the post war scenario. Much attention has been given to the sector from both public and private sector, PATA International and Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray said. Speaking on ‘Sri Lanka Tourism: ‘Opportunities and Challenges’ organized by the Council for Business with Britain (CBB) yesterday, he said Asia was the first to recover from the global financial downturn and has shown a tremendous growth trend in this region.
Sri Lanka, India and Nepal are leading the way performing well above the projected targets.
However Sri Lanka is still in the foundation level and many more things have to improve in the tourism industry sector.
“Recognizing the potential in the industry, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is planning to set up a one-stop-shop where all subjects could be solved under one-roof and the banking sector is supporting the industry providing loan approvals are encouraging.
“The gold rush is now in the Eastern coastlines as there are virgin beaches from Kalpitiya to Arugambay, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
It is timely that interested parties should build hotels while ensuring ecological sustainability.
At present there are only two new hotels that have ongoing building processes in the Eastern coast.
It is important that hoteliers be concern of on the trends and needs of the travellers when setting up hotels newly or refurbishing them,” Cooray said.
At present there are only 14,000 hotel rooms in the market. In achieving a target of 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016, the industry needs to increase the number of rooms to 35,000 to 40,000 in the years to come.
There is a positive trend with graduates joining the hotel sector.
This will facilitate in having qualified management in the hotel sector. We also need to attract employees in the Middle East countries and in Maldives. Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) is playing a vital role in building the human resource capacity,” he said.
The silver market, senior travellers are an important segment for Sri Lanka.
Nevertheless, we have not facilitated much on our products and services to cater to this category.
More accessibility for disabled, single parents and independent traveller segments has to be addressed immediately, as they expect more hospitality,” Cooray said.
There is a huge prospective for green travel where wildlife, beaches and mountains are concerned.
With the number of tourist arrivals showing a continuous growth trend, the industry and the authorities should cope in setting up places for tourists to spend time relaxing or engaging in some activities.
“We need to address the historically important places such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya as destinations where travellers will feel much space in spending time. Therefore Cooray said more boutique hotels, restaurants and places to spend time are needed.
Internal flights will cater to the high-end travellers, as they are time concerned.
The proposal of putting up floating air planes by the SriLankan Airlines is a timely decision in attracting all segments of travellers.
Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAASL) Air Transport and Legal Affairs Deputy Director Rayhan Wanniappa said international airlines have a positive vision in our tourism industry.
“Three new airlines from China, Egypt and India have commenced operations recently.
Five new charters will be operated during the winter season,” he said.