- Aimed at assisting tourists, uplifting tourism infrastructure and supporting tourism biz
- One branch for each province; to be set up soon after parliamentary elections
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
In an effort to uplift the overall experience of a foreign traveller in Sri Lanka, the Tourism Development Authority is gearing up to set up branches across the island that will improve the services extended.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando told Mirror Business that plans are afoot to have SLTDA branches in each province so that the needs and requirements of tourists are well looked after.
“In the past, provinces worked separately, but now we are looking at an ‘all of country’ approach for tourism. For this we are working closely with the provinces and the relevant authorities. So far the support extended for the initiative is commendable,” Fernando said.
While the SLTDA is on the lookout for suitable locations across the country for the setting up of the branches, local authorities of three provinces have already provided the sites to establish the same.
Work on setting up the branches will begin soon after the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Fernando explained that the establishment of the branches couldn’t take place before the polls, as transfer of staff cannot be facilitated.
Fernando shared that the setting up of centres across the country is to fulfil three key objectives.
The first is to serve as a centre of assistance for any tourist. The branches will be equipped to assist tourists with the necessary information they require, and address any issues faced during their travel.
The second objective is the upliftment of the tourist infrastructure in the province, making sites more tourist-friendly. The centre will also be responsible for building public toilets to ensuring proper signage.
The third objective is to support businesses engaged in tourism activities, such as obtaining relevant registrations and renewals. According to SLTDA chief, a segment that will receive much emphasis through the centres will be the informal sector.
Fernando said that as the current focus to pave the way for the informal sector to register with the authority, and the establishment of the branches will allow the conversion to take place with minimum hassle.
“Right now those in the informal sector entities have to come to the SLTDA to register and they probably find the process inconvenient, thus refrain from registering. We want to make it easier, so the setting up of branches is one of the efforts to allow the transition,” she said.
Fernando pointed out that currently there are only 2500 businesses registered under the SLTDA and a staggering 22,500 businesses continue to operate in the informal space.
Doing so places such businesses in a disadvantaged position, as they will not have access to any relief or support measures extended by the government, she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an eye-opening experience for them to get on board as the STLDA was unable to provide any assistance to businesses not registered with them, Fernando stressed.
Going forward, all accommodations, restaurants, and entities engaged in serving tourists are required to be COVID-19 certified by the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the certification would require the businesses to be registered with the SLTDA.