Ambitious plans to achieve tourism goals
In 2010, while presenting the Mahinda Chinthana - Vision for the
Future policy document, President Mahinda Rajapaksa set a goal for the
country to attract 2.5 million tourists annually by 2016. For a country
just emerging from a conflict situation, this was indeed an ambitious
"The good thing about such an ambitious target is that it demands a
strategy to achieve results," said Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism, Dr.
MP Namal Rajapaksa at
the Shangri-La premises in Hambantota
Addressing a Central Bank public lecture, he said accordingly, in
2011 the Ministry of Economic Development, under the guidance of
Minister Basil Rajapaksa, presented a master plan named 'Tourism
Development Strategy 2011-2016' towards achieving this target. "While
defining a set of clear objectives which further elaborated the main
goal, the strategy identified five areas that the Government and the
industry need to focus on," he said. With the conflict ending, tourism
arrivals have increased and new airlines are now flying to Sri Lanka
while existing airlines are adding capacity to meet the demands of
tourists coming to Sri Lanka. It is to meet the growing demand that the
Government started building the country's second airport at Mattala.
While the Government is investing heavily on the development of the
road and railway network, new transport solutions such as sea planes and
city taxis have emerged during the last two years. With more
three-wheeler owners voluntarily deciding to fix meters for their taxis,
this unique transport solution has also become a key attraction among
tourists. The railway network is also being upgraded and we would see
more tourists travelling by train in future.
"After the end of the war against terrorism, one area where we have
been extremely successful is the city beautification program initiated
by the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. Today many tourists
claim that Colombo is one of the cleanest cities in Asia. The World
Bank-funded US $ 223 million Metro-Colombo Urban Development program
will further enhance the city's cleanliness and beauty. The Ministry of
Defence and Urban Development is working hard to extend the same concept
throughout the country," Dr. Godahewa said. Apart from accommodation and
transportation another key challenge for the industry would be manpower.
"The total direct and indirect workforce in the tourism industry at
the end of the conflict was less than 125,000. The additional manpower
requirement of the industry over the next five years was estimated to be
more than 300,000 of which a substantial number was indirect employment
This is a significant challenge for the country and perhaps is an
area of concern currently because we have not been able to put in place
a proper plan yet to address the manpower requirement. "I believe that
the training aspect has to be divided among vocational training
institutes of the State, in-house training by the industry itself and
also by private educational institutes which would also create a new
We will also have no option, but to accept the reality that we may
require a small percentage of expatriate workers to handle skilled jobs
at the initial stages, he said.
Even though tourism is generating only a small fraction of our
national GDP, it is an industry which is vital for the global economy.
In fact, tourism is one of the world's largest and fastest growing
economic sectors. This sector directly represents five percent of global
GDP and 30 percent of the world's services exports. It generates close
to three billion US dollars per day in overall export income and ranks
fourth after fuels, chemicals and automotive products.
Benefits from the industry would also give economic benefits to
hoteliers, tour operators, ticketing agents, tour guides, airline staff,
transport providers, tourist information providers, craftsmen, artistes,
performers, translators, event managers, restaurant and guest house
keepers, home stay providers, fishermen, farmers and street vendors.
One classic example is the building of the Shangri-La Hotel in
Hambantota; employment has already been offered to rural youth in the