Little Sri Lanka is sure to get a bit cocky now with travel guide book publisher Lonely Planet naming the island to be the top tourist destination in 2019.
Well, is there anything wrong in being proud of this achievement given that Sri Lanka has had little to celebrate after the civil war and after the island’s administrators were seen as a ruthless bunch by the world in how they quelled the tiger rebels?
According to Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka has topped the list of travel destinations because the island now boasts of new roads, rail lines, new internal flights, opportunities for ecotourism, wellness retreats and offers travel packages that suit the budget of tourists from all walks of life.
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister was the first to jump on the bandwagon of celebrations and said, ‘Let’s make this award a starting point for us to take tourism to a higher level’. But what we Sri Lankans don’t quite seem to fathom is that tourists, specially Europeans, want to see decency, courtesy and respect for others practised in this island. Tourists are quite aware of the harassment that females have to endure at Sri Lankan night clubs and beach parties. They are aware of the fact that Sri Lankans have a very low opinion and little respect for white-skinned women who frequent the island’s tourist hot spots.
Premier Wickremesinghe has been bold enough in stating that the tourism industry should review its shortcomings. The authorities in this country must know that tourism offers a window to tourists to take a peep into our culture and see how we treat out fellow human beings.
Right now the roads to the north are opened up and there are many constructions taking place on both sides of the road. But the island’s administrators are continuing to pay the heavy price for finishing off the war against the tiger rebels. Right now Sri Lanka is under fire by the OHCHR. The council has doubts that the transitional justice agenda committed to by Sri Lanka under the council’s resolution 30/1 could be fully implemented before the next report of OHCHR is released in March next year. When tourists visit other nations they wish to see that the host countries are not violators of Human Rights. When countries violate human rights it makes the outside world look at them with condemnation and suspicion.
The Sri Lanka authorities have done much for the well-being of the minorities and this was stressed recently by the premier himself. But According to Wickremesinghe, despite some progress being made in ensuring the rights of the minorities, the international community
When the foreign tourists use public transport they are often bugged by beggars, a good number of them being minors! This poses the question, ‘how many children are denied of the opportunity to attend school?’
We are known for our great smiles and hospitality when these visitors are at our doorsteps or check into our hotels. But all that friendliness can vanish when they motor on the road. Sri Lankans are known to bring out the devil in them when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
These tourists are often amazed when they are eyewitnesses to the protests which demand a change of Government. Recently we saw the JVP taking to the road in protest and demanding that the people rally together to unseat this Government. Udaya Gammanpilla of the Joint Opposition was quick to question why the JVP was complaining now because it initially supported the forming of this Government. Politicians are not soothsayers and can only trust and hope that a new Government will deliver when they back a move to form a regime. If a regime fails, even their supporters have a right to look elsewhere.
The rating by Lonely Planet is an eye-opener for Sri Lanka to right its wrongs. Foreign tourists are not fooled by the outer appearance of a nation. Beauty is only skin deep!