Sri Lanka, UNDP to improve tourism sustainability standards

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s state tourism office will be launching a sustainable tourism certificate scheme for the industry in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme in 2019, an official said.

"Next year we are planning to implement a sustainable tourism certificate scheme for the country with the UNDP," Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Director General Upali Ratnayake said.

Speaking at the Sri Lanka Tourism Awards 2018, he said that the certification will incentivize local businesses to improve sustainability standards.

"You have to bear in mind that we are responsible for utilizing our own resource base," he said.

"The environment, the culture, heritage and society is our essence of tourism."

The new hotel star grading system launched in 2016 takes into consideration some sustainability aspects, but analysts warn that it is not enough, and that the star grading system is being ignored by modern travelers who value peer reviews on the internet.

Research done by Ralph Buckley, a tourism academic at Griffith University in Australia, shows that businesses tend to implement superficial sustainability practices as public relation exercises if achieving sustainability targets is left to the industry.

Many hotels have been accused of sucking up ground water, depriving the resource for local communities.

Others have been found to dump untreated sewage and solid waste into rivers, lakes and oceans.

Accommodation units have also been built ignoring environmental standards.





However, some local businesses have won international recognition for sustainable practices.

Following the end of a civil war in 2009, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have grown a compounded 18.25 percent annually from 2010 to 2017, to reach 2.1 million visitors.

This has started a debate on how many tourists Sri Lanka can accommodate for a year, given its environment, culture, and economic and technological constraints.

The government has already admitted that popular attractions such as the heritage site Sigiriya and the national park Yala are over visited.

Sri Lanka last year commissioned a report on the tourism capacity of the country’s tourism regions, but it is yet to be published.

Globally, overtourism is becoming an issue among popular destinations, with Bali facing a water crisis and residents in Barcelona, Paris and Venice growing more resentful towards tourists.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization recently said that overtourism is becoming a big concern. (Colombo/Dec12/2018)

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