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
Pic: Susantha Wijegunasekara
The tourism industry is growing rapidly, mainly because of the
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
A majority of workers engaged in the tourism industry are not trained
However, Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in the industry. What
needs to be done is to properly harness the prevailing peaceful
The tourism industry can and should play a major role in the
The writer holds a BA in Economics from the University of Colombo