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Prasanna assures private sector role in tourism

  • Renews commitment in first-ever engagement with private sector on proposed new legislation

  • Grants three months for industry stakeholders to formally submit their input to frame new Tourism Act replacing existing legislation in force since 2005

  • Says more powerful new Act needed to curb building of detrimental new high rise hotels and resorts sans compliance to stringent standards

  • Industry hails opportunity to express views, suggestions on proposed legislation

  • Minister assures meeting with legal draftsman once all formal submissions of the industry are made

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday assured the private sector of its important role in development and marketing and sought their input within three months for the proposed new legislation.

This assurance was given yesterday when the Minister had his first consultation for a new Tourism Act with the key private sector stakeholders. The discussion primarily evolved around industry concerns and their suggestions for a way forward. Despite initial concerns from the private sector, Minister Ranatunga had explained the need for new legislation. He said that the existing Act enforced since 2005 has failed to prevent unhealthy new buildings such as towering hotels and resorts along the coast and elsewhere without adhering to the maximum height permitted. It was revealed that the Urban Development Act supersedes the existing Tourism Act and if to ensure sustainable development the industry needs a far more effective Act. However Minister Ranatunga admitted that the new legislation will not keep out the private sector in development and marketing. “Irrespective of personal views of some officials, I rely on private sector to expand tourism,” the Minister said in response when Colombo City Hotels Association (CCHA) President M. Shanthikumar at the meeting raised that some had alleged that private sector representatives had not contributed to tourism development and marketing. Interestingly, there were no representatives from Sri Lanka Tourism at the meeting. Following the 45-minute discussion, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) together with One Industry One Voice partners and The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) expressed their appreciation to the Minister for consulting the private sector. The engagement yesterday follows these organisations as well as industry legends and leaders shooting down the need for a new Act especially one that aimed to keep industry’s engine – the private sector – out. Following the cordial discussion, Minister Ranatunga gave three months for the private sector representatives to formally submit their recommendations for consideration when framing new legislation. The Minister as well as Secretary S. Hettiarachchi confirmed yesterday to the private sector that there was no draft at present. Based on a proposal in the Budget 2021, Tourism Minister on 5 April got Cabinet approval to amalgamate three institutions — the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) – to repeal the Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005 and to draft a new bill to ensure sustainable development of the tourism industry. The new legislation will establish a Sri Lanka Tourism Authority by consolidating the three existing institutions. “The Minister gave us an assurance that the industry which is 95% private sector driven will remain in the proposed new Act and our ideas and inputs will be taken into consideration,” SLAITO and One Industry, One Voice partners told the Daily FT. They also said the Minister is the sole authority to implement any changes to the existing Act and not to be misled by rumours from any other sources. “The Minister was of the view that tourism should be driven by the private sector and requested the existing Boards at Sri Lanka Tourism to execute the necessary plans to revive the industry post-pandemic,” the stakeholders said. Industry representatives present at the meeting yesterday told the Daily FT that they have full confidence in the Minister adding that they will continue to cooperate to work together for the betterment of the tourism industry. THASL President Sanath Ukwatte also reiterated that the first discussion on the proposed Act was very positive as the Minister acknowledged the private sector function and in future development of the industry. “The Minister gave a patient hearing to all our concerns and suggestions and admitted that it was important to consider different stakeholder viewpoints in framing the impending Tourism Act,” he added. Ukwatte also said the Minister assured to arrange another meeting with the legal draftsman once all formal submissions of the industry are made through the Tourism Ministry Secretary. Apart from members of THASL, SLAITO, and CCHA, those of the Association for Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET), Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL), Sri Lanka Association of Professional Conference, Exhibition and Event Organisers (SLAPCEO) and Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) were present at yesterday’s meeting along with Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi and several Tourism Advisory Council members.

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