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FIFTY YEARS OF PLANNED TOURISM IN SRI LANKA

24 November 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Today the vision for Sri Lanka Tourism is to be positioning Sri Lanka as one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world

Tourism has now been identified as an important component of the Sri Lankan economy, given its position as the third highest foreign exchange earner

The main tourist generating markets to Sri Lanka were India, U.K., Germany, Maldives, France, Russia, Australia

 

In May this year, Sri Lanka will be completing its 50th year of planned tourism. Although the influx of foreign visitors to Sri Lanka had started during the latter part of the British rule, Sri Lanka was known to travellers all over the world for many centuries. World renowned travellers such as Fahien, Hyun San, Iban Batuta, Marco Polo etc. had visited the country from time to time. Manthai or Mahathitthain Sri Lanka was the main seaport on the Ancient Silk Route from China to Europe. 


However, a systematic approach in planning and development of tourism in Sri Lanka initiated in 1966. Ceylon Tourist Board, the National Tourism Organization (NTO) in Sri Lanka was set up by a Parliament Enactment, namely Ceylon Tourist Board Act No.l0 of 1966, recognizing the economic benefits that tourism could bring to a country. Two years later, Tourist Development Act No. 14 of 1968 was enacted by Parliament to enhance the legislator of the Tourist Board for planning and development of tourism in Sri Lanka.   


The principal objectives of the Ceylon Tourist Board as set forth in the Act was:   
a) the encouragement, promotion and development of tourist travel;   
b) the encouragement, promotion and development of adequate, efficient and attractive tourist services;   
c) the doing of all such acts and things as may be necessary conducive to the attainment of the objects specified in paragraphs above.   


Today the vision for Sri Lanka Tourism is to be positioning Sri Lanka as one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world.   

Tourism is a force which if not planned & managed could have serious negative impact on environment, culture & society


The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has gone through good and bad periods over the past 50 years and the industry has survived from several turmoils and setbacks, showing its resiliency. First, it was due to the youth insurrection in 1971, then the Oil crisis. Secondly, ethnic conflict since 1983. Thirdly, terrorists attacks in the Colombo city in 1996 and Katunayake International Airport in 2001. Lately, Tsunami disaster which occurred in December 2004 also caused a severe blow to the industry. However, Sri Lanka tourism has shown its resiliency by the picking up of tourist arrivals no sooner the difficult situation ceased. Tourism has now been identified as an important component of the Sri Lankan economy, given its position as the third highest foreign exchange earner for the country. It is also making a significant contribution to the generation of employment and regional income.   


It is believed that the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is now well head up for a boom as the 30 year long civil war in the country ended in May 2009. For Sri Lanka, the year 2015 was the best with 1,798,380 tourist arrivals to the country which was the highest arrival figure reported so far. In the last year, the number of tourist arrivals was 1,527,143. Meantime, Sri Lanka is targeting 2.2 million tourist arrivals in this year which is the 50th year of planned tourism.   


At present, Sri Lanka Tourism has gone through restructuring process where with the enactment of the Tourism Act No.38 of 2005 by Parliament, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board was restricted to give away of its legal power to four newly formed tourism authorities such as Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau and Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management.   


The main tourist generating markets to Sri Lanka were India, U.K., Germany, Maldives, France, Russia, Australia etc. However, China is also showing signs of becoming one of the major tourist generating markets to the country.   


The country has benefited in many ways from tourism during the past 50 years. For Sri Lanka, foreign tourist arrival means an additional source of foreign exchange earnings which helps to lessen the adverse balance of payment situation. It also helps to diversify the main single crop (tea) economy further, tourism industry employs a direct work force of 112,550 and provides indirect employment opportunities to 157,600 persons making up a total of  270,150.(SLTDA 2014). Tourism is contributing to the national income (GNP) directly through tourist expenditure and indirectly through the operation of the multiplier effect. Further, it contributes to the central and local government revenues by way of direct and indirect taxes & fees, making way for rural development. In addition, growth stimulus provided for underdeveloped sections of the economy e.g. Batik, Handicrafts, Masks, Lace, Gems & Jewellery etc. and has helped to revive of ancient arts & traditions i.e. Kandyan Dancing, Folk arts, Cultural events etc.   


In short, tourism is a force which if not planned & managed could have serious negative impact on environment, culture & society. However, if properly planned & managed, it could continue providing great economic benefits to the country, as it has done since 1966 under the guidance of Sri Lanka Tourism.     

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