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Tourism industry: Six environments need upgrading

Sri Lanka has been a tourism destination since the colonial era, due to its natural beauty and heritage. Being an island, Sri Lanka is blessed with a wonderful coastal belt that attracts tourists to the country.


Pic: Susantha Wijegunasekara

The tourism industry is growing rapidly, mainly because of the peaceful environment.

Tourism is now the fourth highest foreign exchange earner in the country and it is slowly moving to the third place.

Currently several top global hoteliers are investing in the industry, and the country may become one of the most popular destinations in the world. Policies ought to be drafted to upgrade six environments, so that tourism can play a major role in the development process.

Political environment

It is needless to say that a country should have peace and political stability, so that it can attract more tourists into country. Following the end of terrorism, the industry grew by 39.8% in 2010 over 2009. However, because there is no more war does not mean the country is peaceful.

Crimes against tourists in the country had a bad impact on the tourism industry. Not only tourists but also foreign investors are needed to develop the industry.

Accordingly, peace and a secure political environment can ensure great pleasure and security for tourists and also profits and safe business for investors. Sri Lanka exceeded its target of 1.5 million tourist arrivals last year and earned US $ 2.2 billion from tourism. Hence, the political environment must be favourable for promoting tourism.

Economic environment

The tourism industry is one of the fast emerging industries in Sri Lanka, creating more employment opportunities. As many foreign tourists come to this island to spend their holidays more cheaply, they are concerned about some economic factors such as inflation.

As tourism-related FDIs play a key role in developing infrastructure facilities in the tourism industry, economic environment has to be conducive for investments. Tax holidays and concessions encourage investors in the industry.

Creating opportunities to promote shopping of internationally reputed branded products and entertainment can pave the way for a tourism-friendly economic environment.

Socio cultural environment

The local socio-cultural environment always clashes with tourist behaviour. The domestic culture can be vulnerable, due to the higher tourist arrivals. However, foreigners are reluctant to restrict themselves into domestic cultural barriers. They should have the freedom to enjoy, during their stay in the country.

As Sri Lankan society has been familiar with hospitality, the country has a comparative advantage in the industry.

On the other hand, the country should promote eco-tourism, allowing foreigners to enjoy the local culture. The domestic socio-cultural environment should be a blessing in disguise rather than a barrier to promote the Sri Lankan tourism industry.

Technological environment

This is the era of information technology. Therefore, it ought to be used to promote tourism.

Today, information technology is used for a variety of functions in the tourism industry, ranging from an internal organisation role to external communication between different parts of the industry.

There should be a technological mechanism whereby the country can enlighten foreigners directly, reducing the dependency on foreign media, foreign tour operators who may make visiting Sri Lanka more complex and costlier. Hence, Sri Lanka should not hesitate to use information technology to promote the tourism industry.

Natural environment

The most valuable asset which Sri Lanka has to promote the tourism industry is its natural resources. Sri Lanka, being an island, has sufficient natural resources to attract tourists. The use of natural resources in tourism must be sustainable. For instance, if coastal waters become polluted by hotel waste water discharge, tourists will go elsewhere. Policies ought to be drafted to protect natural resources against threats, especially threats from the hotel industry itself. Wildlife sanctuaries and coral reefs have to be safeguarded.

Marketing environment

Tourism is a marketable service. A proper marketing network should be implemented, so that the country can attract high spending tourists. During the past two months tourist arrivals were up 11.6%. The Sri Lankan tourist market has been mainly China, India and European countries.

The country must focus on the Latin American region which can be considered a possible market for Sri Lankan tourism.

Policies have to be drafted after considering the six environments. Sri Lanka now experiences a period where tourism can be promoted unprecedentedly. The tourism industry suffers from a lack of professionalism.

A majority of workers engaged in the tourism industry are not trained professionals.

However, Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in the industry. What needs to be done is to properly harness the prevailing peaceful environment.

The tourism industry can and should play a major role in the development process.

The writer holds a BA in Economics from the University of Colombo

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