Visitors to Sri Lanka national parks to get online entry permits
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Tourism Development and Wildlife Conservation has launched an online entry permit service for national parks to make the process people-friendly and to manage over-visitation, a minister said.
"With e-ticketing we are going to put a system into wildlife parks," Tourism Development and Wildlife Conservation Minister John Amaratunga said at the launch of the service.
"Before, some foreigners had to queue up for hours. That was not welcome, so we put this system up to get rid of the problem."
Visitors to Yala have been seen queuing up from as early as 4.30am to gain entry, industry officials said.
The online service will only be available at larger parks such as Yala at first. It will be gradually expanded to include all national parks in Sri Lanka, Amaratunga said.
Visitors can print out a receipt or use the official app to scan a QR code at the park’s entrance.
Over-visitation has become a problem in Yala.
Nearly 220 jeeps had entered Yala this morning according to real-time statistics of the Wildlife Conservation Department.
The daily limit is now 600 jeeps, split equally between morning and evening.
The daily limit was increased from 500 jeeps in early 2018 following a request from then Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama to President Maithripala Sirisena, as many tourists were being turned away.
Amaratunga said the new online system will manage the number of people entering national parks going forward.
"Jeep owners try to fight among themselves to put in the most number of jeeps," he said.
"This has to be managed."
"I ask department officials not to be pressured by politicians," he said.
Wildlife Conservation Department Deputy Director Ranjan Marasinghe said there is a lot of pressure to give entry to politically connected visitors.
"If you’re an elite, we lose and if you’re a peasant, you lose," he summarized the situation.
The system was set up with the assistance of the state’s ICT Agency, whose Chairman Rohan Samarajia said data analytics from the online system will allow easy management of traffic.
"We can look at which parks are being over-visited, by how much, at what times and from tourists of which countries," he said.
"Then when a park is full, we can advertise to tourists that there’s a similar park so many hours away."
Compared to Yala’s visitor numbers, just 36 jeeps visited Wilpattu this morning, four in Minneriya and none in Kaudulla.
Over-visitation has even resulted in the death of some animals at Yala, as jeep drivers speed inside the park to get good sightings.
Amaratunga said a new program will be launched to educate drivers and guides to be responsible.
"We need to advise them that if they don’t help to conserve, their income source will be taken away," he said.
The poor management of wildlife parks has even attracted bad reviews at travel websites such as TripAdvisor, Marasinghe said.
Better facilities will also be provided for tourists in the future, he said. (Colombo/Jan14/2019)