Tourism Minister John Amaratunga launching the social media pages for travel documentary ‘Adaraneeya Sri Lanka’, while SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella look on
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Paddy Withana and SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella symbolically handing over a wheel chair to the Central Cultural Fund to be distributed in tourist sites
By Charumini de Silva
Improving access to differently-abled people will be a key focus for Sri Lanka’s burgeoning tourism industry, the Government said yesterday, calling on the entire value chain to align with the global theme for World Tourism Day and see it as an opportunity to generate more business.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) together with stakeholders of the industry celebrated World Tourism Day focusing on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) theme; ‘Tourism for all – Promoting Universal Accessibility’ at the Sri Lanka Institute of Hotel Management (SLITHM).
Tourism Development, Christian Religious Affairs and Lands Minister John Amaratunga said that this year’s theme was of great relevance to the country and insisted it was the right time for sustainable planning to make Sri Lanka a success story in providing accessibility in this part of the world.
“As a country that has emerged from a three decade long war, that has left thousands of our citizens with various disabilities, Sri Lanka is obliged to put in place the basic facilities needed to ensure both safety and comfort of physically challenged people,” he added.
He emphasised that it was essential to make every effort to make use of modern technology to remove barriers for people with special needs such as hearing and visual impairment, noting that there are many physically challenged people who are eager to explore the island — but hesitant to do so due to inadequate facilities.
The Minister called on industry stakeholders to make the global goal a reality adding that accessibility should not be just confined to hotels, restaurants and tourist sites — but extend to transportation, support services and information dissemination as well.
While reminding that accessibility remains a key component of Sri Lanka’s tourism development strategy he said sustainability of the industry was of equal importance.
“We must ensure that our resources and attractions remain unharmed by the development activities which are currently taking place in every nook and corner of the country. We must resort to eco tourism practices where and whenever possible and the protection of the environment should be at the top of the agenda, which will be in accordance with the UNWTO’s declaration of 2017 as the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.”
World Tourism Day, held annually on 27 September is aimed to foster awareness of the importance of tourism, and its social, cultural, political and economic impact.
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Paddy Withana also reiterated the significance of increasing accessibility adding that everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis.
The official event unveiled the ‘50 best tourism experiences in Sri Lanka’ and a travel documentary ‘Adaraneeya Sri Lanka’. In addition, SLTDA handed over wheel chairs to the Central Cultural Fund to be distributed in tourist sites.
Tourism Minister confident of 2.5m arrivals in 2016
Optimistic Tourism Minister John Amaratunga yesterday was upbeat that Sri Lanka would achieve its 2.5 million tourist target by the end of the year despite the first eight months marking only 1.35 million arrivals.
In remarks at the World Tourism Day celebrations held in Colombo he expressed confidence that the forthcoming winter season would be “the best this country has witnessed.”
Noting that next month Sri Lanka will be hosting the annual French Travel Conference in Colombo, he added that it would be a massive boost for the industry as nearly 500 top travel agents from France would be in Colombo to learn more about Sri Lanka.
According to the Minister the launch of ‘50 best tourism experiences in Sri Lanka’ was an attractive method to ensure return visits by travelers.
Amaratunga said: “I like to see the benefits of the tourism industry filtering down to the grassroot levels because that’s when we would experience the real growth.”