- Joint committee says will not support amalgamation of SLTDA, SLTPB and SLCB
- Says board positions should not be opened to line ministries
- Instead recommends setting up of inter-ministerial task-force
- Stresses Sri Lanka Tourism and other boards must be prevented from engaging in business competing with private sector
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The private sector stakeholders of the tourism sector continue to advocate halting the amendments to the current Tourism Act, however should the legislation governing the industry be changed, the sector players said it is essential for the relevant authorities to take into account a list of their requirements.
While talks are underway to amend the Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005, which will effectively sideline the private sector players from all tourism development and promotional activities, the ‘One Industry One Voice collective’ together with Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) have in writing shared the list with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) this week.
The joint committee, comprising of SLAITO, Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), Association for Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET), and Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition & Event Organisers (SLAPCEO) asserted that at the time of drawing up the new Act, the tourism sector was considered an effective Public Private Partnership (PPP) and a self-funded industry.
The key concern, amongst many others, is the amalgamation of the SLTDA, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) and Sri Lankan Conventions Bureau (SLCB), and the joint committee asserted that in the best interest of the industry, the move would not be supported by any means.
Instead of merging the four institutions, the private sector players propose an amalgamation of SLTPB and SLCB which are promotional and marketing arms.
It noted that the SLTDA and Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management (SLITHM) may function as individual units or be amalgamated as they function as training, licensing and monitoring bodies.
“We strongly recommend that a suitable solution be found to amalgamate without changing the current Tourism Act, but revisit the Act at a later date if required,” the written document to the SLTDA stated.
The letter added that opening out the Board positions to line ministries will create difficulties in decision making at board levels as perceptions and interest may vary.
Instead, the committee recommended the setting up of an inter-ministerial task force comprising the secretaries of all line ministries relevant to tourism, such as Aviation, Archeology, Wildlife, Cultural Ministry, and others, as it is a “better” alternative.
As it is the hotels and Destination Management Companies (DMCs) that carry out overseas travel promotions in addition to contributing to the Tourism Development Levy (TDL), the committee proposed that only representatives from the stated two segments from the private sector be accommodated on the boards via nominations from their associations.
Meanwhile, on the SLITHM board, the committee proposed representation from The Hotels Association Sri Lanka (THASL), DMCs, TAASL, Tour Guide Lecturers Association (TGLA) and the Hotel School Graduates Association (HSGA).
“On all boards we recommend resignation of board members every three years instead of resigning all at once, on rotation on the basis of first to come first to go to maintain continuity,” the committee said.
The letter also stressed that Sri Lanka Tourism or any of the boards must be prevented from engaging in businesses competing with the private sector.
“The responsibility of Sri Lanka Tourism should be only facilitation. Therefore, through the Act, management of online booking portals and acting as commission agents must be totally prevented,” the committee pointed out.
Furthermore, as the current Act does not have an equation for representation, the private sector players suggest the allowance of six nominees in total to the joint council; three from SLAITO, and three from THASL. Lastly, the committee stressed that SLTDA must share the draft amendment of the new Act before it is presented to the Cabinet so that their inputs can be taken into consideration.
The committee asked for a period of at least four weeks to express their concerns on the changes that would be made to the Act.