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Sri Lanka mulls restricting new developments at tourist hotspots

2018-06-13 10:34:57
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  • Over promotion of few tourist hotspots has led to over visitation 
  • SLTDA has approved US $ 2.8bn worth of tourism projects from 2010-2018 


Sri Lanka is to consider limiting new approvals for tourism projects in tourist hotspots as over visitation threatens the sustainability of the country’s tourism industry. 
Addressing the 39th Graduation Ceremony of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) this week, Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said, “We are seriously considering limiting the number of hotels coming up in cities, while encouraging them to spread out.”

The minister expressed his amazement over the number of hotels coming up in tourist hotspots in the country.  According to Amaratunga, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has approved 316 new tourism investment projects worth US $ 2.8 billion, from 2010 to March 31, this year, adding 17,991 rooms to the inventory, over the next couple of years. 


“Three hundred and sixteen projects had been granted the final approval, while 113 are under construction and 161 are in operation. Forty two tourism investment projects are yet to be commenced. The number of rooms of the approved projects is 17,991,” he said.   According to the SLTDA, 54 of the approved projects are in the Galle District, followed by the Colombo, Hambantota, Kalutara, Gampaha, Matara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts.


The top five districts, which include Galle, Colombo, Hambantota, Kalutara and Gampaha, account for 71.25 percent of new rooms, out of 17,991 rooms from these investment projects.  However, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Mannar and Polonnaruwa had the least number of projects of one in each district, accounting for only 0.8 percent of rooms. 


Participating as the guest of honour, Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray pointed out that the over promotion of few destinations in Sri Lanka has led to the over visitation in tourist hotspot, such as Yala, Sigiriya and Galle. 


“Think about what’s happening in Yala and Sigiriya today; that’s over visitation, lack of management and lack of responsibility on our part. Responsible tourism means spreading tourism to areas that tourism has not developed,” he said. Cooray noted that Galle is also in a similar status, as hotels are being developed all around Galle without considering the adverse impact in the long term. He pointed out that Galle is flooded with new projects to the point that even a new hotel is constructed between the Galle fort and municipal council.


“We, in the tourism industry, must be responsible. Sometimes we have to say no to some over visitation.” 


Cooray said that Jetwing Hotels ventured into unpopular areas to promote tourism, such as Jetwing Kaduruketha and Galle, in mid-90s.


“When we developed a hotel in Wellawaya, everybody was asking why are you building a hotel in Wellawaya? Nobody is going there.” 


While reiterating that the industry stakeholders must promote tourism in a responsible manner, Cooray said, “Sometimes we tend to keep quiet; sometimes I feel guilty myself that we don’t talk about these things. As a result, we have bad tourism management and that’s not good for the destination. We need to preserve the destination for many generations to come.”


The SLTDA has registered 2131 accommodation establishments, comprising 36,133 rooms, in Sri Lanka by end-March. The Colombo and Galle Districts recorded the highest number, with over 7,000 rooms.


However, the Moneragala, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Kurunegala Districts recorded less than 500 rooms.


Meanwhile, Amaratunga stressed that the hospitality industry is in need of skilled labour, while urging the SLITHM and other private institutes to double their output.
“A professionally efficient workforce is essential to provide the level of service expected by the modern international traveller. It has been estimated that Sri Lanka will require at least 400,000 hospitality sector employees by 2020, if we are to satisfactorily serve the anticipated number of arrivals. Hotel schools will have to be improved and capacities will have to be increased if we are to fulfil the requirements.”


The SLITHM has planned to increase the number of graduates from 5328 in 2017 to 6770 this year, while improving the quality of the courses with adopting ISO 9001 and ISO 29990 quality standards. 


Amaratunga said that the government is committed to achieve five million tourist arrivals by 2025 with the implementation of a long-term strategy plan.
Participating as the guest of honour, Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray pointed out that the over promotion of few destinations in Sri Lanka has led to the over visitation in tourist hotspot, such as Yala, Sigiriya and Galle. 


“Think about what’s happening in Yala and Sigiriya today; that’s over visitation, lack of management and lack of responsibility on our part. Responsible tourism means spreading tourism to areas that tourism has not developed,” he said. Cooray noted that Galle is also in a similar status, as hotels are being developed all around Galle without considering the adverse impact in the long term. He pointed out that Galle is flooded with new projects to the point that even a new hotel is constructed between the Galle fort and municipality also somebody building a hotel.


“We, in the tourism industry, must be responsible. Sometimes we have to say no to some over visitation.” 


Cooray said that Jetwing Hotels ventured into unpopular areas to promote tourism, such as Jetwing Kaduruketha and Galle, in mid-90s.


“When we developed a hotel in Wellawaya, everybody was asking why are you building a hotel in Wellawaya? Nobody is going there.” 


While reiterating that the industry stakeholders must promote tourism in a responsible manner, Cooray said, “Sometimes we tend to keep quiet; sometimes I feel guilty myself that we don’t talk about these things. As a result, we have bad tourism management and that’s not good for the destination. We need to preserve the destination for many generations to come.”


The SLTDA has registered 2131 accommodation establishments, comprising 36,133 rooms, in Sri Lanka by end-March. The Colombo and Galle Districts recorded the highest number, with over 7,000 rooms.


However, the Moneragala, Ratnapura, Kegalle and Kurunegala Districts recorded less than 500 rooms.


Meanwhile, Amaratunga stressed that the hospitality industry is in need of skilled labour, while urging the SLITHM and other private institutes to double their output.
“A professionally efficient workforce is essential to provide the level of service expected by the modern international traveller. It has been estimated that Sri Lanka will require at least 400,000 hospitality sector employees by 2020, if we are to satisfactorily serve the anticipated number of arrivals. Hotel schools will have to be improved and capacities will have to be increased if we are to fulfil the requirements.”


The SLITHM has planned to increase the number of graduates from 5328 in 2017 to 6770 this year, while improving the quality of the courses with adopting ISO 9001 and ISO 29990 quality standards. 


Amaratunga said that the government is committed to achieve five million tourist arrivals by 2025 with the implementation of a long-term strategy plan. (NF)

 


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