Hoteliers see positive developments but say the new government needs time to make a change
The tourism industry in Sri Lanka has always been up and running although it has taken a few twists and turns with changing of governments. With the good governance regime coming to office, a change is expected in every aspect - be it political, social, cultural or economical. However, with new faces coming in to the industry many eyes are focussed on its progress in the coming years. Taking this into consideration the Daily Mirror took a closer look at the industry speaking to stakeholders to see at what lies ahead.
The 2020 Plan : Minister John Amarathunga
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the newly appointed Minister of Tourism and Christian Affairs, John Amarathunga shared his views about the 2020 Plan, which is expected to give a boost to the industry in the coming years. According to him, the primary objective was to attract more tourists coming in.
With two million arriving in the country this year, he believes that the number will increase up to 2.5 million by next year. In addition to that he also says that he wishes to invite more investors to invest in hotels, leisure parks and other areas where people can enjoy their holidays so that tourism could gradually become the main contributor to the country’s foreign exchange alongside Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).
In response to a question asked about backpackers and ‘flashpackers’ who are coming in to spend on their experiences rather than accommodation, Minister Amarathunga stated that it was out of their control. He stated that people wanted to have a variety and save money at the same time. “There are people who come for shopping, who will not be considered as tourists,” he said. As means of uplifting the human resource shortage in the industry, the minister stated that there were crash programmes that had been introduced islandwide.
Therefore, anybody who wished to be a part of the tourism industry could be trained and at the end of their course they would be given a certificate.
“We are setting up training centres in principal towns and we’re trying to increase the number of lecturers, because without sufficient people we can’t start,” he said.
“We have also taken measures to increase their salaries. In addition to that we are starting to partner with the University of Colombo to make the certificate that we are giving to these trainees, so that it can be more valuable and acceptable across the world. For now, the Hotel School is involved in the matter. The University is also being consulted and that will come in due course. The important thing is to start up.”
Comments from hoteliers
Angeline Ondaatje, Managing Director of Tangerine Beach Hotels (Pvt) Ltd and Royal Palms Beach Hotel said that they were positive that the industry had a better future.
“We are positive that the industry will start to do well in the coming years. It is a new government and we need to give them some time as well.”
The President of the Hotel Association of Sri Lanka and Chairman of Jetwing Hotels Hiran Cooray said that since the new government had come in the transition would take some time. “It is not an easy task to change at once.
We will be silent for some time but if nothing happens we will be giving a statement about the progress of the industry,” he said.
Wasanthakumar Perera, an hotelier, who has been in the industry for over 35 years said that many people believed that tourism was only about the number of people coming in to the country.
“There are many backpackers, who check in to small guesthouses. Many of them will not waste money and find accommodation in luxury hotel chains. Tourism should generate money and for that investors need to be encouraged.
“In addition to that advertising and public relations too should be handled efficiently in order to promote the industry. Within the industry I think there is much more that needs to be achieved in terms of trade standards, hygiene conditions, etiquette and even the language. There is a huge language barrier when it comes to service.
A waiter should know to please the clients by asking whether they enjoyed the meal and by being very courteous to them. We hardly see these qualities nowadays.”
Several attempts to contact the former Minister of Sports and Tourism, Navin Dissanayake failed. Meanwhile, former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Rohantha Athukorala refused to give comments with this regard.