ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tourist sector has linked up with Germany to improve eco-friendly and more ‘sustainable’ tourism which is increasingly valued by international travellers, industry officials said.
Germany was among the top three or four source markets for tourism in Sri Lanka before Coronavirus pandemic.
“Consumers are asking for more and more sustainable destinations and hotels to go towards,” C B Ramkumar, a member of Global Sustainable Tourism Council, an industry group said in a kick-off event backed by Friedrich Naumann Foundation of Freedom in Sri Lanka and the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Sri Lanka (AHK Sri Lanka).
“And the pandemic has only strengthened that resolve of the consumer, and sustainability is becoming the post pandemic tourism industry”
“From an operations perspective, sustainability reduces your operational costs, therefore increasing your profitability. So sustainability makes business sense.
“And nobody can dispute that anymore. Because that’s an established model.”
A commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was signed by HiranCooray, President of the Sri Lanka Tourism Advisory Committee, and officials from Sri Lankan Association of Incoming Tour Operators (SLAITO), The Hotels Association Sri Lanka (THASL), Sri Lanka Chauffeur Guide Association, Travel Agencies Association, Sri Lanka Institute of National Tourist Guide Lecturers on August 16.
Firms signing up to the program will develop the economic gains of tourism while reducing any undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural or social environment.
Jetwing Symphony Plc, Chairman, HiranCooray said Sri Lanka should go sustainable, but at the same time needs to think of new marketing strategies to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.
“This is a very difficult time we are in at the moment,” Cooray, who is also chairman of Sri Lanka based Jetwing leisure group said.
“This is a time that you’re not sure whether you need oxygen to survive, or you need to do exercise and you need to keep running. People are not sure what exactly needs to be done”
“But I think this initiative is wonderful, you will have entire commitment from Jetwing. We are willing to share all what we have learned over the last 30, 35 years in this industry, through sustainability and my work with others international associations. ”
Jetwing, which has an eco-holidays unit has in the past supported researchers and also published books to popularize nature.
Sri Lanka’s tourist sector is co-operating with Berlin Based think tank and consultancy Löning Responsible Business and Human Rights to fast-track the process.
Members of the initiative will focus on fair working conditions, respect for communities and cultural heritage , health and safety, effficient use of resources and infrastructure adaptation , ecosystem conservation and Stewardship and governance with self-assessment.
Go-Vacation, Aitken Spence Travels, Hayleys Travels, Hilton Colombo Residencies, Kite-Surfing Lanka, Anantara Hotels Lanka, The Thinnai Hotel, Fox-Resorts, Team Resorts and Spa, Wayfarer Travels and Eco-Living-Lanka have also signed up as pilot members.
Ramkumar said the Sri Lankan government should also embrace sustainability policies and protect the natural resources of the country.
“The government needs to be very careful and guard and nurture their natural assets,” Ramkumar said.
“Sustainable tourism is the way forward. So I would urge the Sri Lankan government officials, we are willing to sort of help you go through this process, if you wish to develop yourself a standard.”
Sri Lanka however has several agencies in charge of protecting natural resources and the environment, which also makes building hotels or factories a long process.
“Our main focus at the moment under sustainable tourism is prepare a Sri Lankan National Tourism policy, currently we are doing that with the support of international organizations such as United Nations Development Program” Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, S Hettiarachchi said.
“Once we prepared it, before end of this year, we hope to complete the first draft with the support of all universities, accountants and other stakeholders ”
Hettiarachchi said after the policy is in place the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority will work to obtain the Global Sustainable Tourism Certifications for over 40 hotels in the country.
He said certifications will target accommodation, destination and operators.
“We have selected nine destinations in nine provinces in the country to initiate the program,”
SLTDA plans to open a new division in the department as the division of sustainable development.
“We have already asked the UNDP and other international professional organizations to support us with technical aspect of the process and train our staff to carry the program forward,” Hettiarachhci said. (Colombo/Aug18/2021)