By Lynn Ockersz
Tourism can provide the oxygen Sri Lanka’s economy needs to revive. The hard currency that comes in through tourism remains in the country and filters down not only to direct employers and employees, but to suppliers and service provides as well. However, the time is ripe to ensure that tourists visit less frequented areas of the country, rather than overcrowd our main assets of Sigiriya, Kandy and Yala, chairman, Jetwing Symphony PLC and Lighthouse Hotel PLC, Hiran Cooray told The Island Business Review in an interview recently.
How do you assess Sri Lanka’s chances of bouncing back in the tourism sector, now that it is opening its doors to foreign tourists once again?
Within the last two weeks lots have changed after our Health Authorities relaxed the arrival process and the European Governments took us out of the red list. This comes as a massive relief for us as we see booking confirmations increasing daily. With the spread of Covid and number of deaths on the decline, we can expect arrival numbers to increase from November onwards. We at Jetwing are very confident that we will have a good winter season.
Anything specific that the state authorities could do to help revive our tourism sector?
There is a bit of a confusion with regard to provincial border crossing, Restaurant and bars are not fully operational and public transport is not available. Even though we know people cross borders and it is not a hindrance to the incoming tourist, we still give a fairly negative message to the World. I do hope the authorities will take these restrictions out as soon as they are comfortable to do so.
Our country has not been properly positioned for years. It is important to promote and position the destination for what it truly deserve. We are blessed with one of the most unique Islands in the World. This needs to be communicated properly which then will give more confident to all of us who are in Tourism to earn more money and contribute at least 10% to the GDP.
Any innovative tourism products that Sri Lanka could offer?
Sri Lanka now offers many unique experiences and I think we need to keep adding onto what we have been traditionally offering . For more than 50 years we have been talking of Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Yala as the only offering for round tour.
Last weekend with a group of Traveller Made agents who bring in high net worth travelers to the country, I climbed Kudumbigala Hermitage and Balumgala which borders Kumana National park. They were most amazed with that experience.
The Sunrise from the East with the views of the Panama Tank and forest was stunning. They literally refused to come down as they felt it was such a joy to stay there. They asked me why we kept it as a secret as they thought the experience of climbing, seeing the Buddist monk meditating and the views were much more heavenly than the experience of climbing the Sigiriya rock. There are many more experiences like this which are not promoted and it is time now to disburse the tourists to the less visited areas rather than overcrowding our main assets of Sigiriya, Kandy and Yala.
Basically, what needs to be done to revive the national economy in the New Normal?
I am very confident Tourism can provide the Oxygen our economy needs to revive. The hard currency that comes in through Tourism remains in the country and it filters down not only to the direct employers and employees, but to suppliers and service providers. We must not also forget that we carry the responsibility to safeguard all our people and visitors. Therefore it is important to talk of our health benefits through Ayurveda and Traditional Hela wedakama. Original Article: https://island.lk/tourism-can-provide-the-oxygen-our-economy-needs-to-revive/?fbclid=IwAR3LejfvMdcQAPaOUxSy8TFulKEwZIceuL8OI9qcymqqH6ZEC_oWmNNftPQ