ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka should end its anti-competitive minimum room rates for hotels, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said, and become a globally competitive country which will avoid another debt crisis.
“When I said we must say goodbye to minimum room rates, some were happy, others were unhappy,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe told a Sri Lanka Economic Summit organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
“We cannot go on crutches anymore.”
Sri Lanka’s businesses have unleashed the coercive power of the state upon the citizens in the form of import duties.
While citizens are trapped within the borders and can be easily cornered by protectionists, tourists are free to choose the best option that gives value for money.
Sri Lanka’s inbound travel agents and the meetings and conventions industry has said the island cannot compete with East Asia with the minimum room rates.
Sri Lanka was striking free trade deals that will see tariffs falling over 15 years, he said.
Going on the old path meant that Sri Lanka will hit another economic crisis in a decade or less, he said.
Sri Lanka needs to sell a product that attracts high spending tourists, President Wickremesinghe said.
“We are going to market Sri Lanka in a way that you can’t think possible,” he said. “We will have a tourist centre which you all will have to take over and run.
“The whole of Republic Square, the President’s House, Navy Headquarters, all the way down to the lighthouse and down into the museum and independence square.
“Now don’t complain when the President’s House is shifted to Madiwela. You have to do that to open this up.”
Six new golf courses were planned around the country. Two were planned in Nuwara Eliya with one about 300 acres.
India and China were big emerging markets.
“So we will have to re-think our tourist policies, how to get them,” Wickremesinghe said. “So lets work on them and learn how to market them.”