COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Eastern Sri Lanka’s tourist attractions have been highlighted in an online interactive Geotourism MapGuide launched Tuesday by National Geographic Society in partnership with International Finance Corporation (IFC).
A community-based nomination process was used to select the attractions in the districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara that have been incorporated in the map and website.
Adam Sack, country manager for Sri Lanka of the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, said geotourism is part of the future of the travel industry that aims to draw tourists who care about the environment and bring in the money for local communities.
The interactive map will help give visitors an authentic experience and connect with local communities, generating employment and income in the region which is still recovering from the island’s 30-year ethnic conflict.
“Tourists more and more are looking for this authentic experience,” he told a news conference. “They will go to a destination or hotel that demonstrates a commitment to responsible tourism.”
The map was done by the National Geographic Maps Division with the financial support of the European Union’s Support to District Development Program and the Royal Government of Norway.
David Daly, EU ambassador in Sri Lanka, said the project will help bring the eastern province’s attractions to the widest possible audience.
“Local ownership of the project is important. The proceeds are going back to local economic operators like hotels, restaurateurs and guides – all part of the bigger plan to help rebuild those communities,” he said.
“Involving local people ensures the project’s success. Visitors get an authentic experience and authenticity is vital because the authentic experience you get here, you can only get it here. It is unique.”
Jim Dion, Director of Tourism Programs for the National Geographic Society Maps Division, said that over last 15 years people are increasingly wanting to learn more and willing to travel further apart and explore lesser known places and regions of the world.
“This geotourism program will help the eastern province of Sri Lanka better compete in the market place by marketing their experiences – places to go, where visitors can stay and things they can do.”