Senior private sector representatives of the tourism industry speak to the media on being singled out by the SLTDA with regard to the drafting of the new Tourism Act (from left) THASL CEO Amal Goonetilleke, CTHA President/THA Vice President M. Shantikumar, SLAITO President Thilak Weerasinghe, SLAITO Vice President Nishad Wijetunga, SLAITO Secretary Nalin Jayasundara and SLAITO Past President Devendra Senaratne
Pic by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe
- Says new Act is being drafted with no consultation with private sector
- Asserts abolishment of current Act is “totally destructive” to industry
- Says private sector representatives have all right to sit on tourism boards as they contribute to TDL
- Stresses that a dictator role is not expected from SLTDA, specially when industry is down
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The key stakeholders of the local tourism industry yesterday slammed the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) for pushing the drafting of a new Tourism Act, without consulting the private sector.
The senior representatives from the tourism industry charged that by drafting a fresh Tourism Act, which would see the amalgamation of the three state tourism institutions and the removal of private sector representation on their boards, is least helpful for the hard-hit industry at this point of time and further adds to its woes.
In a discussion with the media yesterday, the representatives from the Tourist Hotels Association (THA), The Hotels Association Sri Lanka (THASL) and Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), asserted that the abolishment of the current Act is “totally destructive” to the industry.
“There are so many areas that require urgent attention to help uplift the country but the focus has been on a new Tourism Act. This by no means will help the industry but will only further push it down,” said Colombo Tourist Hotel Association (CTHA) President and THA Vice President M. Shantikumar.
He shared that as the draft Act is being circulated within the SLTDA and Tourism Ministry, no efforts have been made to forward the document to the private sector stakeholders, even after a written request has been submitted.
“This is done in such a hurry and is kept away from us. It’s as if there is a hidden agenda. As the private sector stakeholders, who are the ones funding the promotional activities via the Tourism Development Levy (TDL), we certainly have no gain in this change,” added Shantikumar.
Reflecting similar sentiments, SLAITO President Thilak Weerasinghe said that it is the private sector that actively takes up efforts to bring tourists into the country and keeping them out of the equation by removing them from the boards is by no means fair.
“We are contributing one percent of our total turnover to the TDL and this amounts to billions. The industry is self-funded and by contributing to the levy, we have eased a massive burden to the Treasury.
We have all the right to sit on these boards so that we can ensure the funds are used in an appropriate manner. We must be included in this ongoing conversation of changing the Act,” said Weerasinghe.
Meanwhile, THASL CEO Amal Goonetilleke pointed out that it is imperative for the relevant authorities to acknowledge the contribution made by the private sector to build the industry to where it is today.
In addition to contributing over Rs.2 billion annually for tourism promotional activities, a total investment of about Rs.3,000 billion has been pumped in by the private sector to boost the industry.
“The SLTDA stating to the media that nothing has been done by the private sector is completely incorrect. It is our efforts that bring tourists into Sri Lanka, which helps supporting so many other industries,” said Goonetilleke.
The representatives said that needed for the industry is a regulator to help facilitate tourism and speed up promotional efforts and in the current situation it is faced with, due to the pandemic, a dictatorship role is not expected by the SLTDA.