The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has created a provisional licensing method to assist SME tourist service providers, enabling them to obtain the COVID-19 health certification to host tourists once Sri Lanka opens its borders.
In the past, most SME sector operators were unable to register, due to the strenuous documentation requirements.
To assist this segment and to be able to obtain a provisional licence, they would now need to submit an online application with limited documentation, together with photos and a registration fee of Rs.2,200.
Currently, the SLTDA is also developing a process to ease and relax some of the guidelines without compromising the quality.
“The SME operators can initially opt for a provisional licence for six months and they could register with us fully later,” SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe said.
Over 60 percent of tourist service providers in Sri Lanka belong to the informal sector. It is estimated that over 50,000 SME entities are involved in the tourism industry and contribute to the economy by providing employment and foreign exchange to the country as well as diverse experience to the visitor.
Their main booking method being online travel agents such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Agoda, etc. and most SMEs are in the unregistered category.
Due to many barriers to obtain registration, most of these service providers were not able to receive any benefits from the relief packages announced by the government.
Meanwhile, the payment of the Tourism Development Levy (TDL) by the online travel agents has been raised as a concern and authorities are studying the matter.
At the moment, most of the foreign tour operators do not pay the TDL but the local travel agents pay the TDL from their net income. Currently, 80 percent of the TDL is received from the accommodation sector.