ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka has started regulating whale watching, extending a discriminatory fee structure to tourists which is already found in other activities in the country.
"I visited Mirissa recently, and we set up regulations for dolphin and whale watching because it was overcrowded," Tourism and Wildlife Minister John Amaratunga said.
"Now, there is a counter from the Wildlife Department," he said.
He said a gazette under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance has already been issued, through which foreign tourists will be charged 15 US dollars and a service charge of one dollar to get a certificate from the counter.
Amaratunga said boats will only be allowed to carry those who have the certificate.
"You pay for the certificate at the wildlife counter and then you pay the boat service provider," he said.
"It's easy, just like going into a national park."
Amaratunga said the state had earned 2.8 million rupees from the wildlife counter in Mirissa on Monday, and 3.3 million rupees on Tuesday.
"Around 1,200 tourists visit daily, and the season will go on for the next four months," he said.
Sri Lankans are charged 150 rupees and a 50 rupee service charge according to the gazette notice. Tourists are charged 18 times the price of locals at current exchange rate.
Tourists are also charged high fees to enter historical places of interest.
Amaratunga said a similar arrangement will be introduced in Kalpitiya and Trincomalee which are also becoming popular for dolphin and whale watching.
Fees to be charged at Kalpitiya and Trincomalee are lower, with a foreigner required to pay 8 dollars while a local has to pay 20 rupees.
The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Chairman Sanath Ukwatte said regulating dolphin and whale watching is required in order to sustain the attraction for years to come.
The Tourism Ministry recently held a training and awareness session for boat operators. (Colombo/Feb08/2019 - SB)