The Government would bring in a new Tourism Promotion Law shortly in a bid to boost tourism related sectors of the economy, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the weekend said.
Mr. Wickremesinghe made this statement at the AGM of Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association in Tangalle.
"There will be a new Tourism Promotion Law. The Tourism Authority will not alone run the industry. I have also told the Tourism Authority Chairman to come up with a restructuring plan," he said.
"We must make Sri Lanka a 365-day destination. There will be rain somewhere but sunshine in another place. You can fly anywhere within two hours. If you land in Mattala if it is raining there you should be able to go on another direction. Why aren't we making Sri Lanka 365 days,” he asked.
“We are like a shop in Bambalapitiya which is closed for 150 days an year. We will have more festivals. We have to bring in internationally famous singers. We will have an international Choir Games this year," the Prime Minister added.
The World Choir Games (formerly named the Choir Olympics) is the largest choir competition in the world. Organised for amateur choirs, the event is organised by the Interkultur Foundation.
He said development of tourism was key in developing the economy.
"Tourism brings in foreign exchange. We need the foreign exchange to correct the balance of payment and to repay national debts.
“When we took over in 2015 we did not have enough money to service debt. We needed money to pay debt and for recurrent expenditures. What we have done during the last two years is trying to manage the debt situation. Today our revenue exceeds debt services.
“However, we are still behind as we have to borrow for Government expenditure other than debt services. We got the economy moving. These two years are important. Highest debt repayment comes in 2018 and 2019.
“During these two years the investments should come in so that it would be plain sailing for the country," the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said world tourism market had changed as it was no longer Europeans coming in here with travel agents.
"Travel agents are no more. Travelling is controlled by others. We are living in another world. Big airlines we once knew are no longer there. Even budget airlines are having trouble.
“However, people are traveling here. It is Asian travellers we are going to have. Market is changing. Did we here of Trip Advisor some years ago? Things have changed. We have to fit in to the change," he stressed.
“We are in the Indian Ocean in the middle of Indian market, Middle Eastern market and East Asian market. Our target is 5 million tourists.
“How do we go for it? Tourism will have to be a key sector. What are we going to do to market the country? We can think of nature but should think of theme parks? There are 500 to 800 acres in Galle to become resorts.
“There will be golf courses in Galle, Kandy, Iranawilla. We got to think of activities for the tourists. We can think of cruise lines, luxury trains etc. There will be two new museums," he added.
"We will be talking to stake holder in the tourist industry. We got to help the small timers. Some countries have separate focus on informal accommodation sector. We will get all of them registered. We got to think of non-accommodation sectors as well," he said
“If we have enough musicians, dancers we have to focus on it. These trades, needed for the tourism industry, will be thought in schools in the upper grades," he said. (Yohan Perera)