- Additional funds to be utilised to revive COVID-hit tourism SMEs
- To focus on wellness sector’s Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is likely to have its 3.5 million euro grant by the Europe Union (EU) upped to 4 million euros, where the additional funds would be allocated to assist the revival of the tourism industry SMEs hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando, the final clearance on the grant increase is yet to be received. However, she expressed confidence in the additional funds coming through.
“A key focus is supporting the SME segment to increase the overall yield and grow tourism revenue that would benefit wider segments of society.
The fact that 100 percent of the funding is invested in Sri Lanka to support Sri Lankans and to develop long-term competencies as opposed to the conventional practice of donor funding being diverted back to donor countries is a matter of pride for Sri Lanka Tourism,” Fernando said.
She added that when the resumption of long-haul travel and consumer sentiment are uncertain, investing within Sri Lanka is sensible.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has extended a total grant of 22 million euros to Sri Lanka, out of which 3.5 million euros were allocated for the tourism sector.
Fernando shared that the grant utilisation criteria communicated to the Government of Sri Lanka by the EU included support to SMEs and wellness tourism i.e. Ayurveda and ‘Hela Wedakama’.
The EU has had an ongoing development programme for the wellness sector in Sri Lanka for several years.
Fernando said that Sri Lanka Tourism has agreed with the donor to include one-time cash handouts to small and medium hotels, upskilling employees in soft skills, sanitary standards, business management, programmes with SME/homestays to develop nature and community-based products through a small grant programme and product development, branding, marketing, certification of wellness resorts focusing on Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama, under the wellness sector.
Meanwhile, SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe said that product development would be led by the private sector players, who are already in the relevant segments.
“Wellness could make a significant contribution to Sri Lanka Tourism sustainable development goals,” she said.
Wijayasinghe expressed confidence in wellness tourism yielding dividends, as it is the fastest-growing sector globally, with indigenous cures highly accepted by Western travellers.
Sri Lanka Tourism is working with the Health Ministry to finalise the regulations relating to Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama and capacity building. A product development and promotional campaign for the same will be launched in the coming months.